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The Orillia Scottish Festival


Orillia Perch Festival  ◘ Orillia Scottish Festival  ◘ Vintage Auto Show



The Orillia Scottish Festival is one of the longest running festivals in Orillia. In 2015, it will hit it's 38th anniversary (that's only 2 years less than I've been living in Orillia). The festival is not only sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion, but is managed and organized by volunteer workers. Without enough volunteers, it couldn't happen, so anyone who wants to be involved, just contact the Legion (no, you don't have to be a member to volunteer).

The honourary clan is different from year to year (and no, I don't know how they select it), but it brings together people from all over the world and acts as a meeting ground for new friends or long lost family you didn't know existed, and for families from everywhere to reunite.

Each year the scheduled dates are slightly different, but generally fall around the middle of the month or so and finalized dates are published in several places, including the Legion's page on the Legends event, and the Scottish Festival .  It begins on the Friday and runs through to the Sunday, with a variety of events scheduled throughout the weekend.

This weekend encompasses "all things Scottish", with one of the largest drawing cards being the massed Pipes and Drums, and the Pipe & Drum competitions. Entertainment abounds all weekend long, with the Scottish Country Dancers and and the Highland Dancers, the parade down Mississaga Street into Couchiching Beach Park (video), food and pub tents, vendors booths, crafts and even fun participation scheduled for kids. In the past, the schedule of events has varied with the years; at least one event I attended there were sporting events, like the log toss.

Why the Scottish Festival is such a well attended event is a bit of an unknown for me. Canada is made up of many, many cultures, all with rich heritages and some that also have large yearly gatherings, but the Scottish ... well, these festivals run across Ontario in a multitude of small towns and cities, and indeed throughout the country. It is a colourful culture, and one that doesn't hesitate to flaunt it's strengths, and speak it's mind, and those who came to Canada brought it all with them. I don't think they had a choice. Scotland is born in your blood, whether you actually were born there, or whether (like me) you are a few generations Canadian with Scottish ancestors ... the strong genes of the Scot are passed on through the family.

I don't know about other families, but ours in particular had a very strong matriarch - known to everyone as "Nanny" (my grandmother). She arrived in Canada from Scotland (she was a Barr, my granda an Arthur) in the 1920s with her husband and kids, but throughout her entire life, she never lost that Scottish brogue. I'll be honest and say that I never really thought of her as having an accent, but my school friends would often ask me "what did she say?".


Nanny was very outspoken about what she thought, and there were often times (much to my embarrassment) that she'd correct my friends. If someone asked if she was "Scotch", she'd say "naye, that's for drinkin. We're Scottish." And she'd refer herself as "a Scot". We learned pretty quickly as children not to say the wrong thing unless we wanted a long lecture about the correct way (as she saw it) to speak.

There is a stubborn streak in our group ... a very Scottish one. The "old ones" are all gone now, and there are very few of us left here (to be exact, of those in my generation, only 3 remain) but the Scottish legacy that came to Canada with my grandmother lives on, in the wee lassie, my granddaughter ... the dream of being a bagpiper has her in it's grip.