Described by Canadiana Connection magazine as “the uniform of the Canadian Everyman” Plaid Flannel has become a cultural identifier as everyone from our most celebrated artists to our Olympic athletes comfortably don the colourful check pattern shirt as a proud testament to all that is hard working and humble in the true north strong and free.
Plaid made its way into Canadian culture by way of Scottish Immigrant labourers. The lumberjack shirt is what it is most often called. However, plaid goes even further back, to the days of the Highlanders.
The word Plaid comes from old Scottish Gaelic and means blanket. Everyone knows about the Kilt but the Plaid, in traditional Highlander dress, was a long rectangular piece of wool fabric with a tartan pattern draped over the left shoulder and used to protect against the elements.
On any given day in Canmore on the corner of 8th and 8th the Wood Restaurant and Lounge looks like a lumberjack convention as it is absolutely busting with people in plaid shirts, jeans, birks and a snap back hat, proper Canadian every occasion attire.
It was during a recent lunch meeting at The Wood that I became starkly aware of this trend mainly because I, as a mountain sports person, was wearing all technical fabric and feeling a little out of place surrounded on all sides by my cosy looking plaid clad country men and women.
I was broken from my rumination by my boss Sandy who exclaimed passionately “will you look at the blood traffic out there! I remember when you could have shot a cannon down main street and not hit a soul.” At that point Wood manager Jeff entered the conversation to reminisce with Sandy about a time in Canmore’s history few locals have any knowledge of. The time before the Canmore Highland Games.
Jeff remarked that prior to the Canmore Highland Games most families from Calgary would use the Labour Day Long weekend to get ready for the start of school. By Labour Day Long Weekend, Jeff said, the seasonal staff were already gone, and town was well on its way into the quiet season. The games helped keep Calgary families in summer mode just a little longer and now town is crazy through the end of September.
I tried to enter the conversation with what I thought would be a clever statement. “Now you wouldn’t even be able to find a parking place for a cannon in Canmore on the Labour Day Long Weekend.” This fell flat allowing Sandy and Jeff to continue conversing while I went back to thinking about plaid, in particular, the colour I should choose.
It is true the Canmore Highland Games festival, because of its Twenty eight year history, has been one of the key players to Canmore’s transition from mining town to a thriving travel tourism destination market and one of the most desirable postal codes in Canada.
Since 1991 however, the cost of everything in Canmore has gone up dramatically. In a rather uncommon move however, The Three Sister’s Scottish Festival Society made the conscious decision to lower the price of admission to the games to help keep the festival affordable for families so that it could continue to serve it’s intended purpose of bring the community together in the spirit of Celtic Tradition and fun.
This means sponsorship is the lifeblood of the Highland Games as the primary source of financing for the events. Therefore, it really is a community event sponsored by local businesses, organized by a dedicated committee and implemented by a small army of volunteers. This is all lead by one charismatic, much loved albeit slightly incoherent retired British Military Warrant Officer Second Class. I am talking about none other than Canmore Highland Games President, Sandy Bunch who, incidentally, wears a plaid shirt almost every day.
Sponsorship comes in many forms from gift certificates for volunteers, to raffle prizes to program advertising and of course, sponsoring the games themselves. The Canmore Highland Games festival is the one day of the year where the traditional plaid is worn along with a real highland kilt by many game’s participants and attendees. If you want to be popular get a plaid shirt, become a sponsor and get to the games!
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