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This weekend's Orillia Scottish Festival a nod to first responders

Party starts Friday at legion, spills into park Saturday with parade, live entertainment
2018-07-16 Orillia Scottish festival flag raising
The City of Orillia is getting into the spirit of the Orillia Scottish Festival, which will take place this weekend. The festival flag was raised Monday morning at the Orillia Opera House. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

For decades, the Orillia Scottish Festival has honoured a different clan each year.

It is switching things up for the 41st annual event, opting to recognize first responders during this year’s festival, which will run Friday to Sunday.

“We want to shed light on the first responders, to be able to honour them and say thank you for their service,” explained festival co-chair Angela Paylor.

The design on this year’s button — a $2 purchase that grants visitors access to all of the events and attractions, except for the Friday-night ceilidh — reflects that focus. It includes the badges of emergency services as well as the City of Orillia tartan, which was created by two members of the festival organizing committee.

Honouring someone other than a Scottish clan is a break from tradition. Last year was another exception, as the festival celebrated Canada to mark its 150th birthday, but it’s typically a family that is chosen. Otherwise, tradition seems to work well each year.

As usual, the event will open with the ceilidh, a party at the Orillia legion that will start at 7 p.m. Friday. Cost to attend is $15. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. There will be dancers and live musical entertainment.

Saturday is the big day at Couchiching Beach Park. Vendors’ booths will be open at 10 a.m.

One of the main draws is the parade. It will start at noon Saturday the corner of Andrew and Mississaga streets and travel east down Mississaga, ending at the park.

Opening ceremonies, slated to start at 1:15 p.m., will include the mass pipes and drums, when hundreds of musicians will play at the same time.

The children’s village will open at 1:30 p.m., and there will be live music and dance throughout the afternoon.

Sunday will feature the “kirkin’ o’ the tartan” ceremony at 10 a.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, followed by more music and dance at the legion starting at 1:30 p.m.

Fionn MacCool’s is getting in on the action this year, hosting some live music Saturday.

One of the new features this year is a tug of war between police and firefighters. That will happen Saturday at 4 p.m.

The festival is dear to Paylor, whose grandparents were on the original organizing committee. Also, Paylor has performed at the event as a Highland dancer since she was in Grade 3.

For her, the main attraction is all of the pipes and drums.

“I absolutely love the bands. The sound resonates with me even after it’s done,” she said. “I keep hearing the bagpipes.”

The “nice family event,” Paylor said, is a chance to take in the rich Scottish heritage and enjoy the diversity Canada has to offer.

“Canada is multicultural. It’s nice to celebrate different cultures and give people an opportunity to be exposed to that.”

For the grown-ups, there will be a pub tent.

Find out more at scottishfestival.ca.