The Highland Games and the Family Friendly Beer Tent

The last weekend of the summer holidays is never an easy one when you have kids. Then again, neither is the first weekend of summer holidays nor any of the days in between.

By the time September rolls around, not only are the kids bored from having watched TV all summer, but relatives and neighbours are no longer willing to babysit your children for free.

What, then, are your options?

You decide to do something as a family. Yes, somewhere in between sharpening and labeling pencil number 47 and pencil number 48 on their endless school supply list, you come to believe that heading out to the Calgary Highland Games is a great idea.

And it was, at least for those who didn’t have children or—more specifically—my children.

After I promised Vivian and William that this would be as exciting as watching another kid puke on a ride at an amusement park, we were on our way to the Highland games to watch big hairy men heave big heavy things.

There were worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, right?

My husband made up a parking spot in a ditch, we paid the entrance fee, and I spotted this sign: “Family Friendly Beer Tent.”

“Do you think that’s an oxymoron?” I asked.

My husband shrugged.

Time would tell.

On the way to see the hammer throw, William spotted the Lego display. I listened as some of the creators described working on the castle-battle scene until 3 a.m. I envisioned William doing this when he was thirty-five, in our basement.

My husband attempted to explain both the hammer throw and the caber toss. It made slightly more sense than the time he attempted to outline the rules of cricket, an explanation that lasted a century.

“Can we go home yet?” William asked.

I ignored him as my husband rattled off the physics of the caber toss.  I interrupted. “Mommy won the caber toss when we lived in Bahrain,” I said. Only athletes and annoying parents refer to themselves in the third person. I was in the latter category.

My husband raised his eyebrows at me with a look that said, “You’re not going to tell that story again, are you?” When you’ve been married for twelve years, there’s little reason to talk.

Whenever I did launch into the fact that I won the women’s caber toss, my husband would counter with his story of having played for the Bahraini national hockey team (once) in an international tournament. If you had a Canadian passport and brought skates with you to the desert, you were drafted.

But today was for Scottish things, including the bag pipes which droned on. And on. And on.

“Why are the men in skirts?” Vivian asked.

“They’re called kilts,” I said.

“I don’t like them,” she said.

“Do you know what?” I asked. I was determined to make her like Scottish culture. “The men don’t wear anything under their kilts.”

Vivian looked at me. “Not even underwear?”

I smiled. “Nope.”

“Mom! That’s so gross. Can we go home now?”


I grabbed some of the popcorn my husband had bought while Vivian and I were discussing Scottish attire, or lack-there-of.

Popcorn proved to be the perfect appetizer for a late lunch.

I looked at my husband. “You know what time it is?” I asked. “Family-friendly-beer-tent time.”

“Then can we go home?” William asked.

We walked in to the summery outdoor skating rink.

Vivian read the menu. “I hate sausages,” she said.. “Do they have peanut butter sandwiches?”

“No. Look, you’re getting a sausage and fries. Or haggis.”

“What’s haggis?” Vivian asked.

“Sheep guts,” her dad said.

“Can we please go home now?”

“Not until Mommy has a beer,” I said.

“It’s only 2 p.m.,” my husband said.

“But it’s after dinner in Scotland,” I said. “And their kids are in bed. And Scotland’s home to Sean Connery and Gerard Butler.”

My husband shook his head. “Don’t forget Ewan MacGregor,” he said.

“Good one.”

As I left to head toward the beer line and to ponder kilts, I heard one of the kids say, “I don’t want to go to Scotland. Ever.”

Sigh. Mission unsuccessful.

Have you been to any festivals this summer?


  1. EllieAnn says

    Family friendly beer tents are definitely Scottish. I didn’t even know henna was Scottish!
    p.s. what’s a caber? And is it safe to google?

  2. John Rose says

    no festivals this summer, however, I too once won the caber toss in Bahrain, along with the shot put and the hammer throw. I am married to a former welly tossing champ as well. And yes, once in Scotland, I wore a kilt, properly I might add!.

  3. Mark Verrall says

    First glad to see you are “exposing” your children to different cultures. But scaring them at that age and braking the long held secret of what Scott’s men wear under there kilts will probably bite you in the back side someday.

    When your married 17 years there’s lots to talk about. You need to share the blankets stop knocking the laundry on the floor I thought you picked the kids!
    Wait and see wait and see

  4. says

    Leave it to the Canadians to come up with the family friendly beer tent! I have to admit I was in one when I went to Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guy Days. It was in there that I froze my brain in a Mr. Freeze eating contest. I still get chills…
    I would have been grossed out by that naked kilt dude if I were your kids too! I had no idea at that age! Sheltered I know….

  5. says

    Your daughter will likely get over the aversion to kilts when she becomes a woman and sees some Scottish hottie wearing one. But the aversion to haggis should remain. Hilarious, Leanne.

  6. Marianne says

    I’ll go with you to Scotland and we can spend the whole time looking for Ewan, Sean, and Gerard, give them kilts and ask them to try them on.

  7. Alexandra says

    We’re checking out the kite festival in San Francisco (will probably be foggy and cold, sigh). Maybe the kilt introduction will spark a curious fashion sense…or perhaps the disgust will linger. Hope your next outing is filled with family-friendly beer tents!

  8. says

    Really, how could they have rejected the cultural attributes of a country that’s brought us kilts, haggis, Sean Connery and Gerard Butler? The younger generation just doesn’t understand what they’re missing out on.

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