Around 75 people gathered at Olympic Plaza on Jan. 31 to celebrate both the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald and the uniqueness of Scottish-Canadian heritage.
The event, which is known as Sir John A’s Great Canadian Kilt Skate, was organized by the Optimist Clubs of Calgary and High River. Other community groups and Scottish societies across the country coordinated similar skates in Saskatoon, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Montreal.
Daryl MacDonald, the past president of the Calgary Optimist Club, said the kilt skate is in its first year, and is being promoted by both the Scottish Government and the government of Canada.
“The Canadian government is starting to gear up for Canada’s 150th birthday, which will be in 2017,” he said in an interview.
“They have started promoting different activities, and that’s why they got involved in it [the kilt skate].”
Attendees ate birthday cake, signed a card for Macdonald, and sipped on hot chocolate, all while listening to Scottish music across the ice.
Skaters who braved the weather and wore kilts won a commemorative toonie with Macdonald’s image on it.
“We actually didn’t know about [the prize] until Wednesday of this week,” said MacDonald.
“We had just heard there were prizes. We said “OK,” and then they send us a roll of toonies.”
Jason Lychak is one of the Calgarians who showed up in a kilt to celebrate.
“I own all of this,” he said while gesturing to his outfit.
“I’ve never skated here before, and I’ve never skated in a kilt. So, that’s one of the reasons why I came today.”
If the event is held again next year, Lychak says he would love to attend, “depending on the weather.”
“I’m not going to be out here too long in this attire.”
Ian McMaster, who was born in Irvine, Scotland, participated in the kilt skate that took place at the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa.
He and the other participants skated three kilometers from the canal to the National Arts Centre.
“I enjoyed it a lot, despite it being -22 C that morning,” McMaster said in an email interview.
“I love winter and our canal, and I love the community togetherness of the event.”
The Optimist Club said they are unsure if the kilt skate will become an annual event.
Macdonald was born in Scotland in 1815, and he moved to Canada with his family in 1820. He became Canada’s first prime minister in 1867.