June 13, 2024

41 bands toddlin’ into Chicago for weekend competitions at expanding event

Forty-one bands across all grades and nearly 550 solo piping and drumming competition performances are on tap for Friday, June 14th, and Saturday, June 15th, for the annual Chicago Highland Games, a relatively young event that is already one of the largest in North America.

A feature of the competition is that all bands that would normally prepare material for more than one category of competition will play twice on Saturday for all eight band judges – four piping, two ensemble and two drumming.

The games have quickly become a favourite because of multiple opportunities to receive feedback a total of 16 times, in addition to the event’s proximity to Chicago-O’Hare International Airport, one of the largest travel hubs in the world.

In Grade 1, both US-based bands will compete: City of Dunedin from Florida and St. Thomas Alumni from Houston.

Grade 2 features seven entries, all from the United States.

  • Cascadia (Washington)
  • City of Chicago
  • Great Lakes (Cleveland)
  • Greater Midwest (Michigan)
  • MacMillan (Maryland)
  • Midlothian Scottish (Chicago)
  • Ulster Scottish (Philadelphia)

At the 2023 Chicago Games, St. Thomas Alumni, Ulster Scottish, and St. Columcille won both their Grade 1, Grade 2, and Grade 3 events, respectively.

Only two bands from Canada have entered the 2024 competition across all grades, probably due at least in part to higher travel and accommodation prices. The contest also overlaps with a competition in Ontario.

In terms of the number of entries, the Chicago Highland Games are rivalled only by the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario, which has been running for more than 70 years.

St. Thomas Alumni tuning at the 2023 Chicago Highland Games.

The judges are not known. Jim Sim, president of the sanctioning Midwest Pipe Band Association, said that the adjudicators will represent five different pipe band associations. All band judges this year will use online audio judging, which the MWPBA has adopted for all of its band competitions going forward.

The Chicago Games moves to a new location at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, Illinois. Both days of the event are forecasted to have sunshine and warm temperatures.

The event is staged by the Chicago Scots – the Illinois Saint Andrew Society, the oldest not-for-profit in Illinois, founded in 1845. It’s the thirty-eighth time the games have been put on. The expanded band and solo piping and drumming events started in 2018.

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for results and more from the 2024 Chicago Highland Games.

The original version of this article incorrectly listed Ulster Scottish as being based in New York. The band is based in Philadelphia, and the story was amended.






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