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John Lamb, Published February 27 2010

Lamb: Kilt-clad clan to pipe up in Fargo

The 2010 Winter Olympics conclude this weekend, bringing to a close two weeks of international competition and camaraderie.

But just because the Olympic torch is about to expire doesn’t mean hands won’t be stretched across borders.

While the games wind down in Vancouver, bagpipers from America and Canada will be tuning up for a number of performances around Fargo-Moorhead.

For the past 11 years on the last weekend of February, Midwestern Shrine Association Pipes and Drums from Winnipeg and the Twin Cities meet midway at Fargo’s El Zagal Shrine for a day of instructional lessons.

Mike McKenzie, a Twin Cities piper, says American players learn quite a bit from their northern neighbors.

“Piping in Canada is far more prevalent than in the United States,” he said at Fargo’s Sidestreet Grille & Pub, home base for the visitors.

The group plays the pub around 5 tonight before returning to the Fargo Shrine for a 6:30 public performance.

After those recitals, the group will board a bus for an evening of bar-storming before returning to the Sidestreet for a musical nightcap around midnight.

McKenzie, a Twin Cities piper, says drinks and pipes are traditional pairing. Sometimes the bar buys, sometimes fans pay for a round, and sometimes it’s left to the pipers to pay.

In 2007, I was sitting in the Hotel Donaldson Lounge when a school bus pulled up and about 40 men in kilts, knee-high socks and sweaters piled off and filed into the bar.

At first I thought it was another Highland bachelor party. But once they pulled out the pipes and snare drums and launched into “America the Beautiful,” “Amazing Grace” and “Scotland the Brave,” well, I think I would’ve married one of those guys.

No doubt about it, chicks dig the pipers.

“Oh yeah,” says McKenzie. “The most popular question I’m asked is, ‘What are you wearing under there?’ ”

Traditionally, men don’t wear anything under their kilts.

So, are McKenzie and

his fellow Shriners “traditional”?

“I never comment on that,” the piper says. “But it is traditional to be traditional.”

Bagpipes – the international language of love.

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Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533