January 05, 2015

Dark clouds as Canmore Games tries crowdfunding

If they doled out money for great scenery, the Canmore Highland Games in Alberta, Canada, would be rolling in cash. But, faced with declining attendance and rising costs, what might be the world’s most scenic piping and drumming competition is resorting to crowdfunding to help it pull together enough money to hold a 2015 event.

The spectacular Canmore Highland Games.

The group has launched a campaign on social media aimed at pipers, drummers and fans of things-Scottish in a plea for donations to salvage the competition.

Among the reasons the organizers suggest people should have to donate are, “If you have any Celtic background,” “If you’ve ever thrilled to the sound of the bagpipes,” and “If you love Scotch.”

Rather than using a familiar crowdsourcing online platform, the group is asking parties to donate by filling out and returning a form, along with a cheque or credit card and, should not enough money be accumulated by February 15th to put on the event, there is a refund assurance.

“If you care about celebrating culture and heritage, helping volunteers stage a long standing festival and benefiting the community at large, please support our cause,” the organizers stated in their social media request.

Though a spectacular setting for a Highland games, rivalled perhaps only by the Luss or Lochearnhead Highland Games in Scotland, Canmore has not proven as popular as it might be with pipers and drummers, according to several competitors. Accommodation in the tourist town can be expensive, and many competitors who attend the games choose to return to the city of Calgary in the evening.

The Canmore Games have also traditionally placed heavy emphasis on the large beer-tent ceilidh in the evening, often hiring Celtic music groups with worldwide appeal.

The early-September Sunday event has been part of a two-day competition weekend, with the Calgary Highland Games held on the Saturday. The high-altitude Rocky Mountain venue frequently sees snow in the morning and temperatures rising to the mid-20s by afternoon.

The Canmore crowdfunding campaign is thought to be a first for a Highland games.




  1. I wonder how many other events around the globe are on the edge? Todays public wants more than what most highland games offer and counting on first and 2nd gen Scots to come out is no longer a safe bet. This fact will not get any better in time as well.

  2. It is a sad sign of the times, but there’s been a huge reliance on generational ex-pat Scots to keep things as they’ve been everywhere they’ve settled. Same problem where I come from – it is a different era and the generations that once propped all these events up are getting on in years, or no longer around. Highland Games once attracted 30,000 people where I live, with almost 40 local bands in attendance. But that was a long time ago. Now, we are clinging on to events for dear life, with dwindling band numbers and also support from the public. On top of that, the bean-counters have a far greater aversion to risk and now believe a dollar saved is a dollar earned.

    The organisers of this particular event might need to consider trading venues (which would be a huge pity) with a site that has existing amenity so that huge marquees don’t need to be hired (like the one in the photo), erected and then pulled down by contractors, and a bar doesn’t need to be set-up, staffed and supplied, for example. Hand all that to a site owner/operator to run from a pavilion and existing bar facility, and just focus on running the contest etc. It appears, on face value, that it is a greenfield site that needs everything brought in to make it all happen. That would be where all the costs are, surely. Judging fees aren’t going to break the bank.

    Hopefully it does get some financial support to run as it always has, however that is short-term thinking (assuming it happens at all) and it will have a shelf life. Longer term, they might need to walk away from the same old model and have a rethink about what the priorities are – keeping THE event going, or ensuring AN event takes place.

  3. I think the door cost is what is causing the drop in attendance. Band/solo fees should cover the expense of judging. The beer tent should profit over and above what it costs to run it. Venders should be paying a reasonable amount but nothing so excessive that they lose the vendors you want in the games. Not many families can afford $25/head to go to a highland games. Not sure how much these games cost at the gate however this is a problem here in Ontario.



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