The Origin Of The Name Canmore
The town of Canmore, Alberta was named in 1884 by Scottish born Donald A. Smith. He was an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The word originates from a town on the northwest shores of Scotland that was named for King Malcolm III. The Gaelic name Ceann Mo’r, was anglicized into the version of Canmore. It translated to something such as “big head”, “great head” or “chief”.
This is why Canmore has a large and kind of creepy sculpture of a big head. It sits along side one of the main streets downtown.
Canmore Highland Games
This year marked the 20 year anniversary of a Highland Games festival being held in Canmore. This Celtic festival is held annually on the Sunday of the Labour Day weekend. It includes highland dancing, piping, heavy sports and sheep dog demonstrations, massed bands and clan tents. There are several vendors selling Celtic wares and traditional food and beverages. Yes, even Haggis is available!
A pancake breakfast starts bright and early at 7:30am and a beer garden opens in a heated tent at 11:00am. The heated festival tent has entertainment through the day and evening. You can’t help but get into the Scottish spirit as the sound of bagpipes fill the air and you witness tartan kilts being worn throughout the grounds.
Highland Games are festivals that are held during various times of the year in Scotland. They were first held in the 11th century during the reign of King Malcolm III of Canmore. It seems fitting that Canmore, Alberta celebrates the Highland Games as well. Today the games are held as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage.
The official opening of the Canmore Highland games was done by the RCMP Pipe Band.
A caber is a large wooden pole that is traditionally around 16 to 20 feet long and can weigh up to 175 pounds. It takes enormous strength to balance the caber vertically and even more strength is required to toss it. To toss the caber the competitor first cups his hands together. The caber is then held vertically with the bottom end in the thrower’s cupped hands. The thrower then runs forward and tosses the caber into the air so that it turns 180 degrees end over end in the air and lands on the former top end. The former bottom end then falls forward away from the thrower.
The object is not the distance of the throw, but to have the caber fall directly away from the thrower after landing. A perfect throw ends with the top end nearest the thrower and the bottom end pointing away from him.
Other heavy sports of the Highland Games include a hammer throw and stone throw, the sheaf toss and a traditional tug of war. We found the viewing of the heavy sports a bit disappointing. You have to watch them through a tall grid of metal fence. The crowds around the fence can get quite thick making visibility poor as well. However, when a caber hit the fence it soon became apparent that it was needed for the safety of the crowd.
I had to walk around searching for a small gap in between fences to get any pictures. Perhaps they could have tiered bleachers to sit in and fencing high enough to still protect the spectators.
Pipe Band And Other Highland Game Competitions
Several activities take place on the Centennial Park field that is surrounded by the vendor tents. Various pipe bands play as a panel of judges scores them for the competition. The sheep dog demonstrations are also held on this field. The highland dance competitions take place in the gymnasium of the adjacent school.
A Ceilidh, pronounced “Kay-lay” (with emphasis on the first syllable) is an informal social gathering where Scottish folk music is usually played. It can involve dancing and even story telling. The Ceilidh at the Canmore Highland Games is held in a large heated tent. There are several acts which may include both Scottish and Irish bands. No matter who the entertainment is you’re sure to have an upbeat and fun evening.
Information about the games can be found at their website: www.canmorehighlandgames.ca