Highland Games fest may be on shaky ground in Coquitlam

A funding dispute may jeopardize the future of the annual Highland Games at Town Centre Park, according to ScotFest B.C. executive director Mike Chisholm.

Speaking to Coquitlam council Monday, Chisholm said the festival’s future: “Doesn’t look very bright in Coquitlam,” owing to a funding arrangement that makes it challenging for the fest to hold any cash in reserve.

“Under a new funding formula, if we make a profit at our fundraiser, we are penalized by having city funds held back,” Chisholm said. “This new funding arrangement may work for the city but it does not work for the Highland Games into the future.”

The arrangement also makes it unsustainable to have a full-time executive director, Chisholm said.

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“The contribution from the city will be a big question mark for us every year,” he said. “We can’t plan our budget like that.”

As the games head into their 90th year in B.C. and their 40th in Coquitlam, Chisholm talked about the somewhat stunted plans to build ScotFest B.C. into a large regional festival. Those plans include an international stage to showcase a wide variety of cultures as well as a Saturday morning street parade in downtown Coquitlam.

“The idea of a grand street parade is in limbo, as is the whole future of ScotFest B.C. in Coquitlam,” he said.

Room to swing a hammer

While the funding issue was foremost, Chisholm also said there were problems with hosting the fest at Town Centre Park.

“What we need is space, not flowerbeds,” he said.

Particularly challenging is showcasing events like the stone putt and Scottish hammer throw, which the fest has been forced to turn into exhibitions rather than competitions.

“We are squeezing them in there,” he said.

Can we change the station?

Lastly, Chisholm suggested a different, more apt name for Lafarge Lake-Douglas SkyTrain station.

“All we need now is for TransLink to change the name of the SkyTrain to Town Centre Park.”

TransLink would likely be “somewhat resistant,” to that change, according to Mayor Richard Stewart.

Calling that stop Town Centre Park would give the indication that area is the centre of town, “And it isn’t,” Stewart added. “It’s actually the end of the line.”

Related: Our guide to the best parks in the Tri-Cities

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