Penticton Scottish Festival and Highland Games celebrate all things Celtic

'Being Scottish for a day'

Casey Richardson

“Enjoy being Scottish for a day!”

Saturday celebrated everything Scottish in Penticton, with the return of the Penticton Scottish Festival and Highland Games to King's Park. Competing pipe bands, highland dancers and traditional Scottish events filled the area.

Elizabeth Smith, the president of the Penticton Scottish festival society said that as a local group of volunteers, they work to preserve the culture and heritage of all things Celtic within the valley, while also honouring Canada’s heritage.

“It's going to be an amazing day and it's already started out to be an amazing day. Planning was slow, because like everyone else, we were uncertain if we were actually going to be able to go ahead with all the COVID restrictions. But when we did get going, it was full speed ahead,” she said.

Smith, who has a Scottish heritage herself, felt being involved in the festival was a natural fit.

Getting all the entertainment lined up for today was easily achieved, as Smith said they had people contacting them from early on, wanting to perform and get out on the stage.

“People wanted to get back out to perform, to sing, to dance.”

Excited to get back out on the entertainment stage this year was the local branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Shire of Danescomb, to showcase their duelling skills.

“We've been coming out to this site for a very long time and it is very much been [appreciated]. We come out every year because we've got a really good relationship with the organizers and it's just always so much fun to come out here,” Tobias Von Rosenheim, a lord with the society said.

“We don't host events that are public-facing most of the time. So this is the sort of time where we get to actually show the public what it is we do and get other people who didn't realize this was a thing that they could do, who get interested and come over and go, ‘Hey, how do I get started with us?’”

Von Rosenheim started with the society in 2006 but has delved in seriously with them for the past five years.

“It is fun to go out and hit your friends with swords. It's just fun. But most of us are also people who look at history and go, that's cool and want to learn more,” he said.

“It was basically starting to dig into the history of basically the martial art of how were swords taught at the time period and all that.”

The day was one to share heritage and culture, with one of the additions this year having the High Water drummers and singers from Keremeos First Nations Indigenous group perform in the opening ceremony.

“if we don't celebrate our past, we don't have anything to look forward to in the future. We want to maintain what we have and celebrate the blending of all the cultures as we move forward,” Smith said.

“The Scots heritage in being forced out of Scotland in mid-1700s after [The battle of] Culloden, when their culture was eliminated by the English and they were forbidden to wear their tartans, forbidden to speak Gallic, forbidden to play Pipes and Drums…our First Nations people have also gone through something similar on a different continent.”

Next year Smith said the Scottish Festival hopes to have a presentation from the Osoyoos Indian Band and Penticton Indian Band on Indigenous people who had gone over to the Orkney Islands in Scotland and compared the history of how the heritages match similarities with culture being reduced and eliminated.

Smith also hopes to see the festival expand to an entire weekend in the future.

Festivities wrap up Saturday afternoon for the festival.

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