The Inside Perspective
Shelley Stobbs is the partnership and grants coordinator, and also the executive secretary of the New Brunswick Highland Games, taking place in Fredericton this weekend. She shares her thoughts with us on this year’s event and the Celtic Community.
On her roles & responsibilities with the event
I actively pursue corporate sponsorship and I’m constantly trolling the net for grant opportunities. Grant applications are a big part of my job. As executive secretary I direct all email correspondence and phone messages to the appropriate committee chair and generally act as the detail person.
On the festival’s growth of the years
The NBHGF was originally intended primarily as a competitive event which emphasized conventional Scottish competitions of music, dance and heavy athletics. It has since grown to festival status that includes the traditional competitions, plus educational workshops, access to genealogy research and on-going musical entertainment. It is a true celebration of Scottish culture.
On its importance to Fredericton’s Celtic community
The NBHGF provides a venue for people of Celtic descent to learn about and celebrate their heritage. Up and coming artists, well known educators and familiar story tellers are given a platform to display their pride of ancestry. Scottish culture is remembered through music, storytelling, dance and even the heavy events, and guests are guided through the history of these components, i.e.: the clandestine military training that was the initial heavy events , to the dances which each tell a tale.
On the event’s significance to the non-Celtic community
Visitors are encouraged to participate in the many workshops that are offered on everything from food to language, musical instruments to dance. Families are welcome and encouraged to research their genealogy. The Kids Korner provides an area for children to have fun, listen to stories and play a round of “traditional “Scottish mini-golf on the lion’s links. Everyone is encouraged to be a Scot for the weekend.
On young people and Celtic culture
It is my experience that today’s youth have a strong enthusiasm for Celtic culture regardless of their heritage. Atlantic Canadians in particular pride themselves on nurturing the strong roots of their Celtic culture. The popularity of Celtic-influenced mainstream musical artists has certainly encouraged a greater curiosity amongst youth in general. There are MacCormiers and MacGallants in every pipe-band and Highland dance troupe.
On preserving & promoting Celtic heritage
The organizing committee members of the NBHGF work very hard collectively and as individuals to preserve and promote Scottish culture. We are serious about our roles as local ambassadors of Scotland but we have a great time doing it! The Scottish Portal project, under the guidance of the NBSCA, is a huge endeavor for the Scottish community of NB. Its completion will be a wonderful educational tool to share a living history of the Scots in NB.
On what we can we be doing better
Funding is always an issue. Federal and provincial funding has declined significantly in years past. Thankfully we are very well supported on a municipal level. Corporate partnership has grown this year, hopefully that trend will continue. The NBHGF, as a charitable organization, has a wonderful program for individuals and small businesses to donate under the Friends of the Games. The generosity of these friends assists the games in its goal to achieve a stable financial base and now makes up 10% of the total budget. Local volunteers are very generous with their time but as enthusiastic as our youth are about the culture, there is a gap in volunteerism in that demographic. The festival needs young, strong people to begin at the lugging stage and eventually work themselves into a committee role. Then throw the weather factor in and there are times leading up to festival weekend the whole event can feel like a house of cards, until it begins, and all the hard work falls into place.
On the festival’s future
Well known on the highland games circuit, the NBHGF strives to increase its presence as a destination event for visitors to the area. The committee will continue to look at creative ways to educate and inspire visitors, competitors, educators and volunteers to embrace the diversity of the Scottish culture and to ‘Come be a Scot for the weekend!’