The 2nd oldest Highland Games in North America begins today in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The event’s executive director, Matthew Doherty, fills us in on the details.
What are your own roots?
The family name Doherty originates from County Donegal in Ireland and has a plethora of derivatives spread all around the world. My great-great-great grandfather came to Canada from Ireland but I do also have Scottish, Welsh and English ancestry spread about.
When and why did you get involved with the Games?
My first highland games experience came about in 2004; I was 19 and threw in my first heavy events competition. I am I track and field athlete (hammer, shot put, discuss) and was always curious about trying out the games ever since I first saw the heavy events competitions on television when I was about 9 or 10. I’ve been steady at it every since, and now compete internationally in the Scottish Heavy Events.
Why is it an important event for the community there?
The Antigonish Highland Games is Northern Nova Scotia’s Premier Entertainment Festival. It is one of the largest socioeconomic events for the Northumberland shore region of northern Nova Scotia. The Antigonish Highland Games draws thousands of visitors and competitors to the area every July, from nearby communities like Halifax and Truro but also from all over Eastern Canada and the northeastern USA. It has become a real homecoming event for people from the Antigonish Area as well as a major economic infusion to the area that supports local businesses.
Who attends the event?
The event is a historical favourite for people of Celtic descent, and has evolved over the last 151 years into a week-long experience full of activities for people of all ages and interests to participate in, including sporting events, youth activities and competitions, concerts, an original theatrical production and much more. You certainly don’t have to be Scottish to come and enjoy the festival!
What can they expect this year?
This year marks the 151st edition of the Antigonish Highland Games. Throughout the weekend, numerous events will take place on Columbus Field in Antigonish including the Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation Heavy Events Championships. Alongside them hundreds of Scottish Highland Dancing competitors and tug-of-war teams will doing their very best. The Nova Scotia Provincial Pipe Band Champion will also be crowned here and hundreds of individual piping and drumming awards and prizes are also up for grabs. In the evenings on the Ceilidh Stage the Antigonish Highland Games will feature local musical talent; the Friday Night Reunion Ceilidh will feature the local group The Fourth Well and on Saturday night the Ceilidh stage will see the much-anticipated return of the local group Pogey.
How have the Games evolved through the years?
The games started primarily as a local competition in traditional Scottish athletics events in addition to piping and drumming all the way in 1863. Only men were allowed to compete! More and more events were added to the schedule and the Antigonish Highland Games has evolved into a modern, world-class event that is well-attended by over ten thousand spectators annually. The Antigonish Highland Games continues to evolve in an ever-changing world, maintaining a world-renowned reputation for authenticity, attention to detail and hospitality.
Will you remain involved in the years ahead?
I wouldn’t miss it for anything!