Future of the SHGCF up in the air

Nathan Liewicki
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Festival might be leaving Moose Jaw behind

Russ McKnight has been involved with Saskatchewan’s Highland Gathering and Celtic Festival (SHGCF) for 50 years. That involvement, at least in the Friendly City, could be coming to an immediate end.

Lindsey Deets throws a huge rock in the open stone throw competition at the Saskatchewan Highland Gathering and Celtic Festival on May 17.

On June 11, McKnight, who is the chairman and president of the festival, received a copy of a possible proposal that is clamouring for the Moose Jaw Games to cease from existence.

In the proposal summary, it states: “The Moose Jaw Games is not sustainable going forward, and key organizers and volunteers are in agreement that the tie has come to consolidate the weekend at one location.” That one location would be in the Queen City.

McKnight has no idea who submitted the proposal, nor does he have any idea when a possible vote on the proposal might take place. That said, he told the Times-Herald it is “very likely” Moose Jaw will not be home to the SHGCF in 2015.

“Back in 1994 when I was chairman of the Kinsmen (Band and Choral) Festival, people from Regina were talking about taking over the whole festival,” said McKnight. “At the time they said Moose Jaw didn’t deserve the festival, didn’t have any facilities and all they had were volunteers.”

Twenty years later, it might appear as though that could finally happen.

Not so fast, says Jason Johnston, co-chair of the heavy events.

“I haven't seen any formal proposals,” said Johnston. “It's been discussed for a couple of years to turn Regina into a two-day festival, but there's been no discussions to end the festival in Moose Jaw.

“That's up to the Moose Jaw organizers. If they decide to cancel hosting the Moose Jaw festival that would be up to them.”

The proposal also notes that the Moose Jaw committee is “dwindling, the volunteers are not there and the second location increased costs and lowers revenue for the event.”

McKnight acknowledged that volunteers, as well as local sponsors have been tougher to come by in recent years, especially compared to Regina.

“There, they’ve got more groups to talk to and more businesses willing to sponsor the event,” he added.

There are also about a dozen pipe bands and a handful of highland bands in Regina schools, something Moose Jaw does not have.

Even with an additional $23,000 in grant funding this past year, the SHGCF was unable to generate revenue to match the cost of new expenditures – another reason the proposal, which also states that a single location games is “more practical for all concerned,” is on the table to hold the festival solely in Regina.

Sharon Schmidt, president of the SHGCF was contacted to provide clarity to the situation, but we were unable to speak with her.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Times-Herald, Kinsmen, Moose Jaw committee

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Regina, Queen City

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