October 13, 2022

Chicago Highland Games expands by adding Grade 1 events

Judges at the 2022 Chicago Highland Games.

The Chicago Highland Games has rapidly become the largest pipe band competition in North America based on the number of entrants, and the 2023 edition will see the addition of a Grade 1 competition.

The Midwest Pipe Band Association said that the games organizers have found more funding with the aim of rewarding and attracting top-tier bands, which is hoped to result in greater gate receipts and raising even more funds for the Scottish Home charity that the competition has supported from the outset.

The event is scheduled for June 16-17 in Itasca, Illinois, near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, a domestic and international travel hub in the longitudinal middle of the United States.

Aggregate prize money in US$ for Grade 1:

  • 1st $3,000
  • 2nd $2,000
  • 3rd $1,000
  • 4th $500

The Grade 1 competition will comprise both Medley and MSR events. The games will continue to hold the same double-event categories in Grade 2 and Grade 3.

There are currently five Grade 1 bands based in North America: 78th Fraser Highlanders (Ontario), 78th Highlanders-Halifax Citadel (Nova Scotia); City of Dunedin (Florida); Simon Fraser University (Vancouver); and St. Thomas Alumni (Houston).

The Chicago Games had experimented by using “concert formation” for the upper grades, but has decided to drop the format, returning to a traditional closed circle approach.

Wake & District Pipe Band of North Carolina competing at the 2022 Chicago Games.

“Concert formation really did not accomplish the musical creativity goal we were hoping for,” MWPBA President Jim Sim explained. “It did prove to be popular with the audience, though, which was proven for possible future events worldwide. Also, it took time to arrange for the concert event and we just don’t have that time anymore.”

Sim added that each of the Grade 1 and 2 events will be assessed by four piping, two drumming, and two ensemble judges. The 2022 games had adjudicators from six different associations, including piping judge Jim Campbell from the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.

The event again will see all solo competitions held on the Friday and all band events on the Saturday.

A total of 33 bands competed across four grades at the 2022 Chicago Highland Games, eclipsing the entry for the North American Pipe Band Championships at the 2022 Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario, which attracted 30 bands competing across five grades, including Grade 1. By comparison, a typical RSPBA championship attracts at least 120 bands.

Ulster Scottish of Philadelphia were the aggregate winners of Grade 2 at the 2022 Chicago Highland Games.





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