Highland Gathering & Celtic Festival celebrate 65th year

Times-Herald Staff
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Saskatchewan’s Highland Gathering & Celtic Festival is in Russ McKnight’s DNA.

Lindsey Deets throws a huge rock in the open stone throw competition at the Saskatchewan Highland Gathering & Celtic Festival. Deets was one of six people competing in the event on Saturday morning outside of Peacock Collegiate.

Before the chairman and president of the festival was born his dad was the one who suggested the idea of the Kinsmen Band and Choral Festival, which used to run along side the Highland Gathering.

This weekend’s festival was a big one for the committed volunteer — it was McKnight’s 50th year he was involved with the festival.

“At the time Moose Jaw was over 75 per cent British,” recalls McKnight of the first year festival.” It brings a lot of show and camaraderie and a lot of really good music and performing.”

This weekend’s festival, held at Peacock Collegiate on Saturday and in Regina on Sunday, celebrated Celtic tradition through music, dance and athletic events.

One of the main attractions was the over 15 pipe bands represented, which culminated in a mass pipe band performance Saturday evening.

“There is a lot of Scottish history in Moose Jaw and (the pipe bands) really are a part of the fabric of the city,” said Joan Rosnes, past president of the festival, before adding that Moose Jaw pipe bands used to have a great deal of success. “They represented the city nationwide because both bands traveled from coast-to-coast and performed.”

Over 100 dancers were also front-and-centre at the festival, competing in highland dancing. Competitors from ages four to 21 performed from all three prairie provinces on the Peacock auditorium stage.

The competition was highly competitive, according to Leah Sutton, dancing coordinator for Regina and Moose Jaw highland dancing. Winners from this week’s competition will go on to compete in nationals in Vancouver later in the summer and could also compete in the world championships in Scotland in August.

Although the dancing is very competitive, according to Sutton it’s not entirely about winning.

“We want to hand out medals and encourage the kids,” said Sutton. “We want them to all walk away feeling good. Highland dancing is really good at building self-confidence. It teaches kids how to get on stage. How to handle winning, how to handle losing and it creates life long friends.”

Out on the Peakcock grass were a number of heavy events. One of the competitions was the open stone throw, which saw six people compete in the event that is similar to shot-put, but with a bigger rock.

Lindsey Deets, a female body builder from Regina, was one of two girls in the open stone throw and was competing for the first time.

“I had a friend who was competing and she asked me to come watch and I am not much of a watcher so I decided to get involved and compete myself because it would be more fun,” Deets explained.

Nathan Frank can be reached at 306-691-1263.

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Regina, Vancouver Scotland

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