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Chatham pipe band to drum up support with 'Tartan Day' celebration

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Chatham’s Branch 642 Royal Canadian Legion Pipe Band is hosting the first ever ‘Tartan Day’ in southwestern Ontario, as the 77-year-old band looks to recruit new members.

Organizers say a full Highland fling of celebration is being planned for Thursday, April 6 and suggest Chatham will be the ‘Plaid Capital’ of the region.

“COVID has hit every pipe band around the world and we decided to get things going again,” said pipe major, Walter Tomaszewski. “We figured what's a greater time to celebrate our Scottish heritage? And you don't have to be Scottish!”

National Tartan Day recognizes the contributions of Scottish people in the development of Canada and has been celebrated in Nova Scotia since the 1980s.

Tomaszewski said the band realizes the need to revitalize with younger members to keep Highland traditions alive, hoping this event will attract renewed attention. They currently have nine students of various ages (five youth ranging from age 9 to 16) on the pipes or drums learning about Scottish culture and Highland music.

“There's a big Scottish heritage in Chatham-Kent and we're hoping we can get a few of them out,” Tomaszewski explained.

“Wind instruments were actually prohibited during COVID, so this is a big deal for us getting out here making some noise again and blowing some hot air.”

Tomaszewski said it's estimated about 14 per cent of Canada’s population is of Scottish heritage.

In 2010, Parliament passed a bill to make April 6 a day of observance. April 6 is the date that coincides with the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. Tomaszewski said that declaration was the first statement of independence for a Scottish nation, noting some say it was the model for American independence in the 1770s.

“It is a national holiday,” Tomaszewski exclaimed. “And as far as we know, they're only celebrating it so far in a few bars here and there in Nova Scotia and in Ottawa. So here we are moving the borders a bit more to Chatham.”

Tartan Day festivities kick off at The Sons of Kent Brewery with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. Live music, Highland dancing and indoor "Hazy Highland Games" will compliment the Scottish food and drink.

Everyone is encouraged to wear anything tartan, be it a kilt, a glen, shawl or shirt and stage band 'Cellar Door' will play their Celtic tunes from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Officials say suggested admission to the event is a canned good or donation to 'Chatham Outreach for Hunger.’ 

Chatham's Branch 642 Royal Canadian Legion Pipe Band is hosting the first ever ‘Tartan Day’ in southwestern Ontario on April 6, 2023 at the Sons of Kent brewery. Pictured in Chatham, Ont. on Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2023. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)

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