Can you hear the sound of hundreds of drummers and pipers marching en masse to a Celtic rhythm? If you can then the Embro Highland Games are for you. The Embro Highland Games first began in 1856 when the Embro Highland Society was formed. However, after only two years, the society disbanded in 1888. The games were deeply missed in the area and reformed in 1937 under the Zorra-Caledonian Society. Today over 5000 spectators and competitors visit the Province’s oldest festival of its kind each July to listen to live Celtic music, see extraordinary athletic competition and have a fantastic day out with family or friends.
Live music is perhaps one of the biggest draws to the festival. Each year, competitions in solo and band piping and drumming entertain thousands of spectators. Additionally, live Celtic bands keep the party going and Celtic dance competitions show off the best of Scottish culture. Perhaps the biggest attraction is the Massed Band Performance where all competitive pipers and drummers perform together both at mid day and the closing of the games. It’s enough to turn you Scottish.
Of course, what would a Scottish festival be without a little athletic competition? Each year, competitors bulk up in hopes of dominating heavy events that include stone put, weight for distance, hammer throw, caber toss, weight over bar and road races. Additionally, the Memorial Tug-Of-War Tournament (started to memorialize six Embro farmers who won the world Tug-Of-War contest in Chicago, 1893) proves to be Canada’s largest Tug-Of-War event. Amateurs and youth can also compete in more light-hearted competition that includes stone for distance and two-person log sawing. They can also watch some fantastic sheep herding and sheering demos. There is something for everybody!
Finally, everyone is welcome to stroll through Concession Alley which boasts loads of Scottish vendors selling their wares. This includes anything from jewellery and Scottish food to bag pipes! No matter who you are, you are bound to find a treasure you love.
So whether you attend for serious competition or sport, the Embro Highland Games is the place for you!
By: Gabrielle Bossy, Tourism Oxford