piping down the sun feature

Pipe down the sun: Port Albert, Ontario

If you blink you could very well miss Port Albert. You’ll find this tiny speck on the map on the shores of Lake Huron in Southwestern Ontario. Home to such famous landmarks as the Port Albert General Store, the Inn at the Port and a fish ladder at the “old bridge,” you won’t find much else in this quaint village nestled in farm country.

Over the years, Port Albert also played home to something else: me. I spent most of my childhood on Arthur Street in Port Albert, with my parents and seven siblings. Port Albert is where I ran my brother over with my bike. It’s where I saw my first Playboy. It’s where we played extreme croquet, baseball scrub and an idiotic game with my cousins that involved throwing gravel high into the air and then standing still and hoping none hit your head.

And as fun as getting your head split open by a piece of gravel might seem, there’s another cool activity happening in Port Albert these days.

Piping down the sun

Piping down the sun, Port Albert, Ontario

Throughout the summer, members of local bagpipe clubs gather each month at the old bridge in Port Albert for the Piping Down the Sun parade. With pipers piping and drummers drumming, local musicians lead a parade down the main road to the beach (blocking off the road is unnecessary, given how little traffic there is anyway).

Once at the beach, the bagpipers play their songs until the sun sets below the lake’s horizon. Timing the musical performance with the setting sun is a beautiful experience and unique way to connect with the rhythms of nature.

Piping down the sun, Port Albert

Michael Dalton, the group’s Drum Sergeant, explains how this unique activity all got started:

“It has actually been going on for some time with a trio of local talent; Stewie, Gwen and Marg. Whenever a night came around when the three of them could all get together they would meet up on the Port Albert beach some time before sunset and play until the sun went down. Every night they played they would always finish standing in the water and bowing to the sun playing Amazing Grace right as the sun sank below the watery horizon of Lake Huron.

Mom and I had known of this ritual for some time before Mom crossed paths with Gwen and received and official invite to this piping down of the sun. So we put our kilts on and met this group down at the beach…

… After a few sunsets we had quite a crowd gathering to listen to us pipe down the sun and we began receiving inquiries about if we would be playing at the impending Port Albert Reunion. Things began moving very quickly after that…”

Piping down the sun: very cool. Way to go Port Albert!

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Josh Martin
Josh Martin is the founder and chief blogger at Badge of Awesome. He lives in southwestern Ontario, Canada and is the author of "Misadventure Musings: Lessons learned from life's awesome and absurd moments" and "Going on a Bear Hunt: Five things cancer taught me about overcoming obstacles."

Comments

  1. Natasha & Brandt says:

    We have enjoyed many evenings of watching the sun being piped down at the Port Albert beach. Brandt (at 3yrs of age) was so taken by the Pipers that he requested that I find a Kilt for him to wear; just like the Pipers. Brandt would stand off to the side of where the Pipers were on the beach and play his ‘pipe’ (a recorder) quietly in his kilt. One evening Gwen and Stewie invited Brandt to join their circle of Pipers. This was such a touching moment for me as a Mom to watch as these friendly ‘strangers’ engaged and included Brandt. Brandt excitedly asks each weekend we are up to Port Albert (from May to October) to go to the beach to see the sun go to bed. I look forward to next spring when we will return to Port Albert and hopefuly see more of the beautiful sunsets piped down by the friendly Pipers of Port Albert.

    • Josh says:

      Thanks Natasha and Brandt! That’s awesome. I’m not surprised Brandt got invited to join the Pipers – a lot of great people in that community. Thanks for sharing this cool story.

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