Will bagpipe tradition be deflated?

The 83rd annual conference of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, our largest and most geographically diverse conservation organization, will be held Feb. 23-25 at Calgary’s Glenmore Inn & Convention Centre.

The 83rd annual conference of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, our largest and most geographically diverse conservation organization, will be held Feb. 23-25 at Calgary’s Glenmore Inn & Convention Centre.

A few weeks before each AFGA conference, some major or perceived controversy erupts. This year, on Jan.31, Maurice Nadeau, a past AFGA president and no Scot at all, but a proud Metis, blew the whistle: “It has come to my attention that AFGA is doing away with tradition. I have heard that there will be no Grand Entrance, and no piper, at this year’s President’s Banquet and Awards . . . I have always thought the whole entrance ceremony elevated the president, the executive and most of all, the association. What’s next; jeans, T shirts and KFC?”

Well. . . . ! Past presidents and life members unanimously feel likewise and the bagpipes brouhaha has inflated my inbox like a bagpipe with six dozen wails and laments. There are a few excuses from executive members, most citing solidarity and the duty to support a decision.

Some life members and past presidents doubt an executive vote was ever taken, and claim this was purely a presidential decree, and perhaps the only thing he has done in the first year of his two-year term. They are confused and amazed by president Conrad Fennema’s “explanatory” email of Feb 1st: “Leading up to this concerns were brought up that we were loosing (sic) contact with the clubs and members. Suggestions were tossed around and a more personal entrance to the presidential ball by the new executive was discussed. This decision was not made by one but by all, as recorded in the minutes of the December executive meeting. (‘A consensus was reached to omit the piper and personalize the executive’s entrance.’) Thus the decision will stand. I personally feel we are loosing (sic, again) that personal touch and I feel we have to try and get that back.”

Apparently the “personal touch” will be got back by the executive and guests stopping as they stroll to the head table to chat with delegates. That is likely to get them bitten, if I know my hungry AFGA delegates.

Interestingly, the real tradition at many formal banquets is that the main course is piped in: the roast beef, maybe even haggis.

Recently, at the AFGA banquets, too many hams have been piped in, mike-grabbing executive members who droned on so long that there was little time left before midnight for the dancing and socializing among delegates and them with executives that has traditionally been such an important part of these conferences.

Personally, I love the pipes . . . sometimes . . . such as at Jasper Park Lodge at sundown, piping Amazing Grace with a loon wailing counterpoint out on the lake. I have a tape, in the event I relent and have a funeral.

There are ambiguous responses to the pipes, as Shylock says in Merchant of Venice: “Some men . . . when the bagpipe sings i’ the nose, cannot contain their urine.”

Ronnie Corbett defined a gentleman as someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but doesn’t, and Oscar Wilde said: “thank God there’s no smell.”

Then there are quizzes appropriate for grand marches and outdoors people.

Q: “What’s the difference between a bagpipe and a chainsaw?”

A: “You can tune a chainsaw.”

Q: “Why do bagpipers march while they play?”

A: “It’s harder to hit a moving target.”

Piper and formality aside, it is by the establishment of a protocol, tradition and a good MC who does not lightly surrender the mike, or for long, that keep awards banquets moving along and get the formalities over in time for the socializing among the delegates and them with the executive.

Things started to go to hell when smoking was totally banned from banquet halls, thus removing the major reason for the Toast to the Queen. Then most other vestiges of protocol for a civilized banquet went or were forgotten, and the long, boring gong shows started.

What started with ceremony and dignity with the piper ended in chaos, sometimes as late as 11 p.m., with tired and disgusted delegates heading for the exits and some sleep.

Things got so bad that in 1981 president, Don Hayden, asked two past presidents, the late Tom O’Keefe and I, to establish a protocol and a script for the President’s Banquet and get a good MC. With Garnet Anthony of the CBC as MC things went well (banquet over by 9 p.m.) for a few years, and then started to regress again.

Fortunately, the “old guys,” the people who remember AFGA’s long (104 years) history, the past presidents and life members, are starting to think beyond just bagpipes and are working toward the establishment of an AFGA protocol-policy for the President’s Banquet.

I’m betting it will both include the piper and foster that personal touch the executive seems to want, but has no idea how to get, other than a bagpipe ban.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning writer living in Red Deer.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Heather Buelow, owner of Aerial Edge Studio in Blackfalds, says she has spent ‘all of my saving keeping the studio going’ through government-mandated shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Either open in-person or close permanently: Central Alberta yoga studio defying rules

A central Alberta woman is allowing clients back into her yoga and… Continue reading

Sandra Schmirler Foundation donates $10,000 to Red Deer hospital

Donation will go towards electronic fetal heart monitoring project

A sustainability audit for Westerner Park suggested 33 changes, including more city involvement. (Advocate file photo)
Westerner Park expands volunteer program

As Westerner Park refocuses the organization, they are reigniting their emphasis on… Continue reading

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Ukraine’s leader requests a talk with Putin, gets no answer

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle
New regulator to stop sexual exploitation of children online: public safety minister

OTTAWA — Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the government will introduce… Continue reading

Gordon Greenwood Elementary Grade 7 students were assigned to write about climate change. The Langley Advance Times is pleased to present a selection of their writings. (Sasha/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

OTTAWA — A new report shows Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he will vote against a… Continue reading

Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

OTTAWA — A group representing thousands of the country’s small businesses says… Continue reading

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

Most Read