The 2021 British Columbia Highland Games returns to Coquitlam’s Lafarge Lake Park this Labour Day weekend.
In its 38th year in Coquitlam and 2nd year at the Lafarge Lake Park location, the festival was cancelled last year during the pandemic like all other large gatherings. However, with restrictions lifting, this family-fun outdoor event is taking place safely once again, celebrating all things Scottish, including music, sport, dance, culture—and of course, haggis.
Mike Chisholm, Executive Director of the festival, tells us there are some not-to-be-missed events, starting with Pipers in the Park on Friday, September 3rd, and admission is free. “This is an opportunity to experience classical Highland bagpipe music, played by the best musicians,” he says. This type of music, called Piobaireachd (pronounced: pi-brock), is “characterized by slowness, a melodic style, and will be played by four of the best pipers in North America,” Chisholm continues. World champion Jack Lee, SFU Pipe Band Pipe Major Alan Bevan and SFU pipe band pipers Alastair Lee & Zephan Knichel will perform.
The Big Tent Area, also known as the Ceilidh Stage, will be the location for the local Celtic band The Whiskey Dicks, who “were asked to play our 2020 festival, so they should be well-practiced,” laughs Chisholm. “It’s another free event in the park, under our big tent. Perfect for families and friends, and lots of space to spread out and enjoy the music.”
Two ticketed events for Friday night are going fast, with Whisky and Oysters sure to sell out at only 44 tickets available, featuring Macaloney’s Caledonian Distillery and Stellar Bay Shellfish, known for their Kusshi Oysters.
Saturday’s festival all-day line-up is a sweet deal at $20 for adults, $10 for children (6-12), and kids five and under are free. It is best to purchase tickets in advance on the website, but buying at the gate is also possible.
“You get around $500 worth of entertainment for the ticket price, with about six areas that you can wander into and be entertained,” says Chisholm.
“The main stage will be home to Highland Dancing performances the Jocelyn Pettit Band Shot Of Scotch Highland Dancers with the Eire Born Irish dancers, more Highland Dancing with a mariachi band and a Cape Breton milling frolic and hopefully a Cape Breton Square dance with Robyn Carrigan,” says Chisholm.
The Ceilidh Stage under the big tent will be home to Ballyhooley, Blackthorn, the Whiskey Dick’s and Bob Collins from 12:30 p.m. until after massed pipe bands at 5:30 p.m. There will also be a special rendition of Skye Boat Song, the theme from Outlander.
What would a Highland Games be without a good old-fashioned hammer throw or caber toss? Always exciting and impressive, the REMAX Provincial Heavy Events Invitational is scheduled all day Saturday at Lew Ross field. In keeping with the something-for-everyone schedule, one can wander off to a cultural workshop, visit the kid’s area, check out the merchandise for sale, and of course – eat.
Surrey’s British Store is once again the festival’s anchor food truck. “They come every year, and every year they are determined not to run out of food, but every year they come really close,” laughs Chisholm. Offering everything from Haggis sticks to iron brew, all prepared fresh and nicely paired with a Twa Dogs Brewery beer.
With the usual health and safety protocols in place, including spaced-out tables indoors, various hand-washing stations, and mask-wearing promotions, ScotFestBC is also offering a free Fraser Health vaccination clinic onsite.
Purchasing tickets in advance is a no-brainer, but what about getting there? “Come to the games at the end of the train, is what we like to refer to it as,” says Chisholm. Skytrain travellers simply get off at the final stop in Coquitlam, which is Lafarge Lake Station. “There is even a bike valet this year where you show up on Skytrain, and then it’s a two-minute ride to the free bike valet,” Chisholm adds.
Festival-goers will be provided with a fold-out map and schedule when they enter, as there will be tons going on at any given time during the two days. Or they can scan QR codes on event signage to pop open a map or schedule of events.
Interested in getting involved? “We still need volunteers,” says Chisholm. “In return for 3-4 hours of your time, you get free entry, a free t-shirt and free lunch. Just go on the landing page and click on the red button at the top that says volunteer.”
“Great volunteers and great sponsors, like the City of Coquitlam, REMAX, BCLC, Metro Van and Tri-City News make this possible, and we really appreciate their support,” says Chisholm.