A short flight from the Island airport and a quick check in at the rental car depot in Ottawa and Long and I were on our way to Cornwall Ontario for the 68th Glengarry Games. I am not sure or the origin of this particular odyssey – I think it was Long’s suggestion – but my policy of “say no to nothing” and the promise of handsome men in kilts made for an easy convincing.
We made our way to the Ramada Inn, assessed our agenda and almost immediately postponed the visit to the Games in favour or a tour of the town. This included a stop at the local mall where I bought this delightfully nonsensical shirt for $8
and a $19 bathing suit which is precisely as attractive and comfortable as a $19 bathing should be. Which is to say, not at all. After checking out the town which comprised of one short charming strip of stores and a tragic disregard for the very appealing riverfront we returned to the hotel to spent the afternoon in the pool and the faulty hot tub having wan and intermittent bubbles blown at us. It was a perfect way to spend the time.
After consulting with the concierge for dining recommendations we were sent to the “high end” restaurant, the incongruously named “Truffles Burger Bar”. Our waiter was a charming though slightly skittish tattooed fellow who grew only more nervous when he was informed by management that we were food bloggers. Long had checked in on the social media sites (as she is wont and I am lackadaisical about). The owner had gleaned our identity as there were but two tables full at the time, ours and a group of five ball capped gents, and told the waiter to be aware. We ordered far too many french fries and Long tucked in to the star of the menu, a $100 beef and foie gras burger sprayed in real gold. It was rich and ridiculous and will become the benchmark for all future indulgences.
Bellies full, we retired to our hotel to rest up for the main event.
The next day we awoke to variable skies and made our way to the Glengarry Games. We arrived in time for the “opening ceremonies” (odd, since events had been scheduled since Friday evening) and the clan parade.
The Glengarry Highland Games have been going since 1948 and their certainly have their organizational act together. When something was scheduled for 1:00, it started at 1:00. The crowds were well controlled (though with security sporting tats like the one below, you’d expect everyone to stay in line) and the flow of events was smooth as silk.
As one of the largest events of its kind in the world it is the home of the North American Pipe Band Championships with over 50 participating groups from around the continent. How one actually judges a pipe band I cannot say. To my ear they had a repertoire of about the same three songs but they looked good and the pipers managed to startle me almost every time they started up.
There was a highland fling competition with over 200 dancers. I didn’t watch any of it, but I did catch this girl at the opening ceremonies showing her stuff
The events that really had me interested were the heavy games. There a several events featuring feats of strength and precision. The Hammer throw was the oddest to watch (though I missed the caber which involves tossing the trunk of a tree in a specifically prescribed manner judged by distance and accuracy). The men whirled the weights (both 16 and 22 lb versions) in a manner that looked like they would dislocate their arms and let them fly. The winner, Michael Doherty, threw his 22lb hammer 115’5″, and the 16 lb version 144’1.5″. Remarkable.
Here’s a link to the descriptions of the games. http://glengarryhighlandgames.com/about/descriptions_events.php
They are pretty incredible and proof I think that Scottish farmers must have been amongst the most bored men on earth to have invented them. There are two categories of weight for distance – 56 lb and 28 lbs – the point of which is pretty self explanatory, a weight for height event where a 56 pound weight is tossed over an incrementally increased height supported by a bucket truck
The same trucks used in the sheaf toss which employs a pitchfork and a 20 lb stuffed burlap bag at heights of up to 15 feet. Check this out for perspective on how high that actually looks:
These were the events you might expect, but there were some you might not.
The Glengarry Games are not just all fun and games. (Close though). There are some fantastic fashion statements to be found.
Those shoes are on a man, by the way and I must say men look damned fine in kilts. I wish it were a tradition more widely sported.
And of course there was food. I ate my way across the park, indulging in sweet and starchy treats alike .
I was amused to see this food truck dispensing the “traditional Scottish” fare of poutine, caesar salad and shawarma.
Once we had our fill of food a fun we headed out of town and back to Ottawa. Just in the nick of time too – the forecasted showers held off until just after we pulled out. I am sure the organizers would have had a contingency plan for inclement weather.
We found ourselves back in the Nation’s capital to catch the tail end of their busker fest, a scant five blocks with a few juggling acts. We thought we had missed most of the fun, but when we returned the next day we realized this was the scope of the event.