Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games Too

The Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games continue in Fergus, Ontario today. Vice-President of the Games’ Board of Director, John Jans, gives us his perspective on the festivities.

What is your own heritage?
I was born in Guelph in 1960 and my parents and grandparents emigrated here from Holland in the early 1950’s

When and why did you get involved with this event?
After watching the Heavies compete in Uxbridge at the Highlands of Durham Games, I attended the “Heavies school in 2001 and finished third my first time throwing the weights. The organizer of the “Heavy Event School”, Warren Trask, and Steve Clark, another local thrower “took me under their wing” and helped my train and taught me how to be a better thrower. I got involved in with the highland games because of the people! People like Warren and Steve, as well as a much larger group of wonderful people! They taught me the meaning of sportsmanship, how to support new throwers to this sport, and that even though we may compete against each other, the philosophy was to help each other be better men and better athletes. I have never been involved with a more cohesive, supportive group of competitors in any of the sports I have been involved with.  The camaraderie amongst the athletes is FANTASTIC. I moved to the Fergus/Elora area after meeting my wife at the Fergus Highland games in 2001, the first year I started throwing. My wife Lorna and I even got married on the field being piped in as well as having some of my fellow athletes stand up as our wedding party in 2009!  

What are the challenges of being involved?
Because this is a “strength” event, training, and practicing are a challenge to fit into a busy personal and professional life. I have competed in as many as seventeen games in a single year, so travel, practice and training require a real commitment. I would say the biggest challenge for me would be age!!! I Love to throw and compete, but I find it harder and harder each year to keep my numbers up.

Why is it an important event for the community there?
Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland games has been a main stay for this small community. This is our 68th year. Fergus is known worldwide as one of the premier festivals and draws athletes, dancers, pipers and clans from several different countries. All profits are funneled back into our community and are also the major fundraiser for groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and Big Brother/Big Sister organizations to list just a few. It is run by a small, dedicated board of directors, an excellent group of chair people, and overseen and managed by “Ralph Bassett & Associates. All of these groups make this festival possible! But I would be remiss if I did not mention and thank our “HUGE” group of volunteers, which without them….this festival could not operate!!

What can attendees expect this year?
This year we have a “LOADED’ agenda. Friday nights tattoo will have all of the usual highlights, Bands, Dancers, Clans, Entertainment, as well as our famous fireworks display. But what is really exciting is that we are attempting to set a Guinness World record of having 50 Cabers turned simultaneously! This should be something not to be missed!! Saturday, beginning at 8:30 am, we will be hosting The Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation (CSAF) Championships with the top 12 professional athletes from across Canada. As well as our regular Dance competition. Sunday will see the masters and woman’s heavy events competition, Sheep dog demonstrations, Dancers Clans and Diana Gabaldon will be there all weekend with lectures and book signing.

How else are you involved with the Celtic community there?
I am currently Vice president of the Fergus Scottish Festival and have been on the board for five years. I have volunteered at the games since 2001. I attend Robbie Burns Super and shows/Plays at the Grand theatre which help raise funds for the festival.

What does the future look like for the event?
The futures so bright…You had better bring shades!!!! With the strong community interest, an excellent volunteer base, an excellent management team, and a cohesive and determined Board of directors I only foresee GREAT things for this festival!!