The Antigonish Highland Games annually hosts Atlantic Canada’s premier solo piping, drumming and pipe band competitions. A panel comprised of some of the top adjudicators in North America listen to both amateur and professional competitors to select an array of Nova Scotia Champions on Saturday and Atlantic Canadian Champions on Sunday. As a result of this expert adjudication, along with the welcoming nature of the Antigonish Highland Games, each year we host the largest number of competitors east of Montreal. In addition to accommodating virtually all levels of competitive pipers, drummers and pipe bands from across the Atlantic region, the Antigonish Highland Games regularly attract competitors from across Canada, the US and beyond.

The audience on the field for this event is a mix of locals and tourists. Local radio stations (CJFX – 98.9 FM, The HAWK – 101.5 FM) provide their listeners with updates of results every 15 minutes. Both solo and band competitions have been featured on ATV, CBC and the BBC as well as several documentaries about Scottish culture in the New World. The event is also covered extensively in local and provincial newspapers (The Casket, The Evening News, The Reporter, The Chronicle Herald, The Daily News) as well as in piping publications across North America and in Scotland (Piper and Drummer Magazine, The Voice, Piping Today, The Piping Times) guaranteeing worldwide coverage.


Highland Dancing was included in the first Highland Games in Antigonish in 1863. At this time only men competed in the Highland Fling. In 1868, the Sword and Reel were included. Today the competitors are primarily females (ranging in age from 4 years to adult) and there are nine dances performed including the Highland Fling, Sword Dance, Sean Triubhas, and Flora MacDonald’s Fancy.

It is the largest competition in Atlantic Canada with approximately 250 dancers from Atlantic Canada, Ontario, Alberta and the Eastern United States competing each year. The Games have hosted the Canadian National Highland Dancing Championships twice in the past and plans are underway to host them again in the coming future. The Games also hosted the Atlantic Canadian Championships in 2001 and the New Scotland Open Championships regularly since 2003. Extensive coverage of the event is carried on the local radio stations (CJFX, The HAWK) and in the local newspapers (The Casket, The Reporter and The Evening News).


The Scottish Heavy Events is the pre-eminent competition in Atlantic Canada and in the top 3 in Canada. It regularly attracts the best competitors in Canada and the world. Recently competitors such as Harry MacDonald (Canadian Champion 1995-2000), Doug MacDonald (Canadian Champion, 2001, 2002, 2003) and Francis Brebner (World Caber Champion, 2001) have participated in the Games. The World Ancient Heavy Weight Championships were held at the Games in 2003 as well as the Commonwealth vs. the USA Championships in 2005.

This event is one of the most popular events with both locals and tourists at the Games. It receives extensive local radio and newspaper coverage. In the past it has also been covered by TV stations such as ATV, Global and OLN.

For the past number of years a Junior Scottish Heavy Event has also taken place at the Antigonish Highland Games and is the only of its kind in the Atlantic Provinces. The high caliber instruction and competition made available for young people at the Antigonish Highland Games is a critical building block for the continuance of this traditional sport.


The Antigonish Highland Games Tattoo is the oldest tattoo in Nova Scotia, as well as the province’s only outdoor tattoo. This noteworthy event was first staged in 1967 to honour the Queen Mother’s attendance at the Games, and because of its tremendous success it has continued ever since.

A colorful event, the Tattoo provides an opportunity to see the visiting and local pipe bands in a musical environment. In addition to the massed bands, the event has highlighted a variety of world-class performances such as Blazing Fiddles from Scotland, Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond and dance troupes from New Zealand, Alberta and Manitoba. The Halifax Citadel 78th Highlanders also perform, demonstrating their military prowess and abilities annually at the Antigonish Highland Games Tattoo. This group has been part of the Antigonish Highland Games for many years and continues to show a strong presence because of a relationship established early in the history of the Antigonish Highland Games. In the early years of the Games, the 78th Highlanders would take the train to Pictou and march the rest of the way to Antigonish to attend and participate in the Games. Their mode of transportation to arrive at the Antigonish Highland Games has certainly changed since 1863, but the crowd-pleasing spectacle they provide continues to amaze audience members from all over the world.

The audience for this event is varied with children, parents, grandparents, locals and tourists taking in the event. It is covered by the local newspapers (The Casket, The Reporter and The Evening News) and the local radio stations (CJFX, The HAWK).


The Concert Under the Stars is a celebration of the music, dance and songs of the local Scottish Community. It was the first outdoor concert in the Maritimes and began in 1948 as an informal outdoor closing event for the Games. Today, however, the concert takes place on the Friday of the Games immediately following the Official Opening. There are usually about 10 participants who perform over a 2 to 3 hour period for this concert, and the performers are primarily local talent from Antigonish Town and County and Cape Breton Island. Many successful Maritime groups (The Rankin Family, The Barra MacNeils, Slainte Mhath, Natalie & Buddy MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, Kendra and Troy MacGillivray, Patricia Murray, Mary Jane Lamond, The Cottars, etc.) have performed at this event.

The on-field audience of about 1000 is a mix of locals and tourists. All ages are found at the Concert but the 40+ age group predominates. The Concert is also broadcast live on the local radio station (CJFX) to thousands more listeners. The Concert is promoted in the local papers as well as the provincial daily papers. It also receives some TV coverage.


The Antigonish Highland Games Parade is the gala event for the weekend. The highland dancers and marching pipe bands of the Highland Games parade from St. Francis Xavier University to Columbus Field. Floats also accompany the marching bands and various prizes are awarded. It is carried live on the local radio station (CJFX). Approximately 8000 - 10,000 people line the streets to watch this pageant.


A Ceilidh is held in an outdoor tent on the field every year on Friday and Saturday nights. Each night’s Ceilidh features a different up-and-coming Celtic Rock band from the Maritimes. The Sons of Maxwell are anticipated to perform at this year’s Saturday night Ceilidh, and discussions are taking place with a variety of other bands of a similar genre to secure a group for Friday evening’s entertainment. These events have a pub-like atmosphere and are very popular with the younger audience (primarily 20 to 40 year olds). They are, undoubtedly, the largest social events in Antigonish during the Highland Games weekend.


A Sunday Family Ceilidh is held in an outdoor tent on the field every year on Sunday afternoon. The afternoon Ceilidh features up-and-coming local bands and performers predominantly from the area (e.g. Kendra McGillivray, Troy McGillivray, Dara Smith, and Marion Dewar). This event is very popular with people of all ages and especially popular with families. The Ceilidh provides a perfect closing for the Games’ events and consequently is a gathering for competitors and performers from all the competitions and events throughout the Games.


During the four weeks prior to the games, a Countdown to the Games Summer Concert series is held in downtown Antigonish at Chisholm Park. These shows are a series of free outdoor concerts featuring traditional Scottish music from local amateur and professional performers designed to welcome tourists to Antigonish, “The Highland Heart of Nova Scotia”, and build momentum and interest in the Antigonish Highland Games. The concerts feature local traditional performers including fiddlers, pipe bands, highland dancers, step dancers and other similar groups. These concerts attract hundreds of tourists and local residents.


The Antigonish Highland Road Race began in 1998 to replace the 10 000 meter track race which had been traditionally held on Columbus Field during the Games. This event takes place on the Friday evening of the Games, and is fast becoming one of the most prestigious road races in Eastern Canada. Recently, the event has attracted runners from across Canada and the United States as well as many European nations. Competing runners are representative of all calibers and abilities of athletes - former Olympic participants, young, old, World University Games contestants, - members of every walk of life. Categories include: Open - Male and Female, Junior (18 and under) - Male and Female, Masters (40 years and over) - Male and Female, with the potential of a Senior Category in 2006. Last year over 250 people participated in the event and in keeping with the reputation of Road Race registration, the participate rate is expected to rise higher still in the upcoming season.


In the 1970s the Tug-of- War competitions that had been previously been held at the Antigonish Highland Games were taken off of the Highland Games weekend’s agenda because there were requests to keep the Games completely traditional, based on customary feats of strength and talents of the Scots. In 2005, however, the Antigonish Highland Society re-welcomed the Tug-of-War teams to Columbus Field and this reappearance proved to be a tremendous success. Many spectators chose to take in this highly energetic attraction, and the enthusiasm displayed by the athletes deeply engaged the crowds. In 2006 the Antigonish Highland Society plans to host Tug-of-War once again, perhaps with an increased roster of competing teams.