February 25, 2021

A glimmer of sunshine: North America gets back to business Saturday with Northeast Florida Games

It’s fitting that the Sunshine State will offer a glimmer of hope, as the Northeast Florida Scottish Games & Festival on February 27th will be the first in-person pipe band competition to take place in North America in more than a year.

Five bands and about 50 solo pipers and drummers have entered, about half the numbers the games would typically see at the competition, to be held in Cove Springs, near the city of Jacksonville. With no Grade 1 competition, the Florida-based City of Dunedin will not be attending.

The event is fully sanctioned by the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association and will adhere to the association’s stringent guidelines under pandemic conditions. The EUSPBA is one of few piping and drumming associations to create clear guidelines.

“We have asked each in-person piping and drumming director to follow the guidelines we adopted for this season,” said EUSPBA President Jim Dillahey. “The Northeast Florida Games were involved in the discussions regarding these guidelines so there should not be any issue. Those guidelines have been sent to every member of the EUSPBA, and they were sent to each piping and drumming director, as well.”

EUSPBA protocols state:

Check-In and Score Sheet Distribution: Any interaction between competitors and contest organizers should be six feet apart per Centers for Disease Control & Prevention guidelines. In addition, all federal, state and local guidelines, including masking, need to be followed. Hand sanitizer required on site.

Solo Playing: Recommend a minimum “bubble” of nine feet between a competitor and the judge’s table. Games should provide a Steward’s “check-in” table that will provide six feet for social distancing between Stewards and competitors. Drumming competitors are required to wear a mask.

Band Areas: Games organizers are asked to place each band in an assigned area and ask bands not to interact inside another band’s area. During band competitions, drummers (snare, tenor, and bass) will wear masks. Judges will continue the 10-foot separation between themselves and individual players as required by competition rules. Any interactions between judges, stewards, and band members should be six feet apart per CDC guidelines.

Stewards and Judges: Are asked to wear masks at all times while performing their duties.

Unlike associations such as the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, which sell a full-service turnkey implementation of judges, stewards and administrators, EUSPBA sanctioning only enforces their guidelines and rules. The entries and events are run by games’ piping and drumming directors and their staff.

While almost the whole of Canada and most of the United States remain under strict rules against larger public gatherings, the state of Florida has taken a far more lenient approach to COVID-19 and is among the first to relax its rules.

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association recently announced the cancellation of several small competitions. Banchory (May 9th), Strathmore (June 13th) and Cupar (June 20th) all have been called off.

There has been no official announcement regarding the first of the five RSPBA majors, the British Championships, scheduled for May 22nd in Paisley, Scotland, but it is widely expected that the event will be cancelled.

In Canada, the North American Championships at the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario, were cancelled on February 1st, and the traditional first outdoor event of the Ontario season, Georgetown Highland Games, has also been called off.

The British Columbia Pipers Association has said that its indoor Annual Gathering, traditionally held over the Easter weekend, will be held in an online format.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently said that the UK should expect 100% of its population to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of July 2021.

The Canadian federal government has said that all of Canada likely won’t be vaccinated until the end of 2021.

pipes|drums’ survey in February of Grade 1 and Grade 2 pipe band leaders indicated that the majority of bands would need three months or more to return to competing form.

In a message to EUSPBA members, Dillahey said, “With a growing number of in-person contests now on the horizon, I would like to ask that we all do what we can to follow CDC guidelines and use common sense while at the Games. In an attempt to get ahead of any issues that may arise, a panel of contest organizers and EC members met to discuss additional guidelines that are unique to what we do at the Games. While we all want to interact and get things back to normal as quickly as possible, please be smart and do your part to try not to have close interaction with members of other bands and soloists as much as possible. The health and safety of all in attendance should be paramount, and it is up to each one of us to do the right thing.”

If the World Pipe Band Championships go ahead in August in Glasgow, it is widely expected to be a far smaller event, with few non-UK bands attending, either by choice or due to international travel restrictions or conditions.



Maxville 2021 officially cancelled
February 1, 2021

Getting Back At It: we survey band leaders on competition return and other shutdown issues
February 8, 2021





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