“The Greatest Show on Earth” is how Ringling Bros.-Barnum and Bailey Circus advertised themselves. Well, the circus has folded their tents and closed.
Now the undisputed biggest indoor show on earth is the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.
The annual Tattoo reminds me of a line by a World War I officer writing a friend to describe the atmosphere at the front, “Oh, my dear fellow, the noise … and the people!”
The tattoo is an evening of noise and people, pageantry and pipes. The diverse lineup of over 1,000 military and civilian performers ranges from dancing mascots to scarlet-clad
Mounties, acrobats to opera stars, foreign legions to homegrown troops. Each year it builds a show around a theme that highlights the unique talents of the non-professional cast of military men and women. Author Brian Cutherbertson captured the essence of the tattoo with the title of his book, Gunpower and Grease Paint.
It is a patriotic spectacle that doesn’t sink to jingoism. It would make a great addition to a personal or group’s sesquicentennial celebrations.
While it helps to really like the bagpipes, the tattoo it is one of the great spectacles in North America. Even in Las Vegas, that epicure of spectacle, you won’t find a show this massive. And it has such a solid reputation that to mark her 80th birthday, The Queen granted the Nova Scotia International Tattoo, “Royal” status. This is the only event throughout the Commonwealth that she gave this honour.
The tattoo is a bit of serendipity that took off. In 1979 the province was
looking for a signature event to both launch the International Gathering of the Clans and welcome Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Suddenly, the city was filled with the squeals of hundreds of bagpipes. The public reception was so enthusiastic that one show became three, then an annual week-long event that developed into a mammoth show.
To paraphrase the old Bond theme song, “nobody does it bigger …”
This year’s Tattoo runs from June 29th to July 6th. For more information and to order tickets, click on: http://www.nstattoo.ca