One group of five can’t wait to kick off their favourite party of the year this Saturday.
Fraid Knot will be headlining at the ceilidh, the annual “gathering of friends” that winds down the Foothills Highland Games. The ceilidh runs from 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. with Possak Bhrioar Academy of Irish Dance performing before Fraid Knot takes the stage at 7 p.m.
The band has led the evening’s entertainment for the past 10 years, when the Games were still held in High River.
“It’s a great party,” said Fraid Knot members Glenn Webster. “It’s grown year after year, it seems to get bigger and bigger and more popular.”
He said the ceilidh brings out a fantastic crowd each year with all ages enjoying the entertainment, dancing and have a good time together.
“It’s hands-down one of our favourite shows of the year,” said Webster. “It’s just a fantastic venue, the organizers and the volunteers are all great, and the crowd’s just fantastic.”
Fraid Knot puts on a high-energy Celtic rock show, starting with traditional Irish, Scottish and East Coast Canadian tunes. The band features a traditional line-up of instruments as well, including mandolins and accordions.
“We try to keep it a little more traditional at the beginning because it is an actual ceilidh,” said Webster. “But at the end it turns into a party for sure.
“It’s definitely one of the shows we look forward to all year, the whole band.”
The ceilidh is just one event in a long lineup of entertainment and competition happening through the day on Aug. 27.
The 17th Foothills Highland Games begins north of the football field at the Foothills Composite High School at 8 a.m. with heavy games competitions. The Canadian Masters Championship will be part of the heavy games events this year, beginning at 9 a.m.
On the school’s football field, Highland dancers will take to the stage in a full day of competition. Foothills Highland Games Association president Dave Roe said dancers will compete in various categories based on skill level and age.
“There’s novice, beginner and primaries in the morning, so that’s usually the younger kids,” said Roe. “Then in the afternoon it’s intermediate and the premier dancers, those are your older and more competitive kids.”
Individual and full-band piping and drumming competitions will also take place throughout the day, ending with a mass band performance in the middle of the football field, he said.
The Games will also feature a number of vendors and demonstrators bringing a touch of Scottish flare to Okotoks. While some will be set up to sell Scottish wares, other groups promise to bring the battlefield to life.
“We’ve got a black-powder demonstration team out, they’ll be firing off muskets and cannons,” said Roe. “We have another group that will be doing sword fighting and that kind of thing.”
The ceilidh tent is also open all day long with a number of different Celtic groups taking to the stage to entertain crowds taking a break from the heavy games and competitions, he said.
Roe said the Foothills Highland Games is all about bringing people together and having a local celebration of Scotland, something that didn’t exist in southern Alberta before the Games started in High River 17 years ago.
“We started with really small games and it’s grown year after year,” said Roe. “It’s just being able to celebrate the Scottish culture and heritage.”
The gates open Saturday at 7 a.m. for the games. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Ages six and younger and free, and a family pass for a family of four is $30.
Tickets are required for the ceilidh tent after 5 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults and children 12 and older for the evening.