Kilts ahoy at Summer Skies Equinox
Second annual celebration returns to Bon Accord
By: Anna Borowiecki
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
You’re never too old to gaze at the inky sky’s colony of stars or compete in a Scottish caber toss, according to organizers of the Summer Skies Equinox.
In its second incarnation, the Bon Accord dark sky festival happening this Saturday is an elegant blend that observes the stars and planets as well as celebrating the town’s arts and Scottish heritage.
“We wanted to highlight and expose the town’s Scottish heritage and this is an event that helps to focus our new brand – education, environment and culture,” says economic development manager Patrick Earl.
The all-day festival officially starts at 6 a.m. and finishes at midnight. Throughout the day a sea of plaid will be visible at the many events ranging from Scottish Highland games, a tartan walk and pipe bands to sheepdog demonstrations, a mock medieval battle and a sans cutlery supper.
Weather permitting sidewalk astronomy with a special telescope to view the sun will be operated during the day. Once the sun dips below the horizon at dusk, volunteers from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will train their telescopes on the dark skies.
Although Bon Accord only houses 1,200 residents, part of the economic strategy is to develop an observatory that will attract and increase tourism. Possible talks for 2014 are being planned to discuss engineering concepts that will house a 30-inch diameter telescope.
As an amateur astronomer, Earl notes that unlike some years, there may be little planetary movement in the night sky.
“A few planets are up – Saturn, Jupiter and Venus, and there’ll be nearly a full moon at 10 p.m. If it’s overcast, we’ll be looking for sucker holes, breaks in the clouds.”
However, during the day a solar telescope with a special hydrogen-alpha filter will be on site. For amateur and professional astronomers it’s an opportunity to view solar flares, the sun’s corona and any other unusual activity.
“The sun is in an 11-year cycle and it’s peaking, and that’s why we’re getting more northern light shows. It would be nice to have a northern light show at equinox,” chuckles Earl.
The festival launches with a two-hour twilight tea at the main event grounds at Lillian Schick School. It is immediately followed by an art marathon that runs until 4 p.m.
“The idea is to challenge artists to create something around the dark sky theme.”
Bon Accord has developed a light efficiency policy that conserves electric power and protects the night sky.
Throughout the day numerous activities will cast a spotlight on the town’s heritage. The Edmonton Scottish Society leads a tartan march and whoever wears a tartan sash and shield is welcome to join in.
The caber toss, a traditional Scottish Highland Games sport has competitors tossing a long wooden pole. Typically it is about 19-feet, six inches.
“It should be quite interesting and very visual.”
Running concurrently with the heavy games are sheepdog demonstrations.
“The sheep from Fort Saskatchewan that eat grass will be coming. The grass stops being trimmed around Labour Day and the handler who controls them with her border collies is coming.”
The Knights of the Northern Realm, attired in authentic armour and clothing, host a daring battle between the Scots and the Brits.
“Of course, since it’s a mock battle, the Scots have to win.”
From 6 to 8 p.m., a no-cutlery dinner of haggis, Auld Reekie chicken drumsticks, roasted potatoes, buttery corn, treacle scones and Tantallon cakes will be served.
Throughout the day numerous kids’ activities are planned and after supper a classic car show paired with a showing of the Disney movie Brave takes place. Fireworks at 11:45 p.m. end the day.
“We officially end at midnight, but if anyone wishes they are free to end the night in Bon Accord.”
Tickets for the supper are $15 adults, $10 for children under 12. Children under five are free. Anyone wanting to buy tickets or sign up for the art marathon can call the Town Office at 780-921-3550.
For a complete list of activities visit www.summer-skies-equinox.com.