Saturday, November 12, 2011

Highland Games and Scottish Festival - 2011

When we first moved to Texas, we had no idea we were of Scottish descent.  It wasn't after I met a woman in Germany who shared a family record that listed the family of James Veitch the Sheriff, one of our earliest American ancestors, as an immigrant from Scotland.
After we returned from Germany, we discovered that Salado, Texas is home to an annual Scottish Festival.  We quickly turned a yearly trip into a family tradition.
We got out of the habit of going when the kids went off to college, and Scott ended up being deployed overseas.  Then, when everyone moved back home we kept missing it!  This year, I started checking the website in October to make sure we didn't miss it again.  
Not everyone was able to make it.  Ryan's friend, Vince, is home on R&R from his Navy assignment, so he was spending time with him.  Leslie & G were having friends over for the evening, and Leslie wasn't too wild about trying to keep the girls entertained so they decided not to go.  That left Ron, Becca, Seth, his friend Jim, Scott and myself.  We had fun, but missed the rest of the gang.
Over the years, the festival has grown into an event that literally takes over the village of Salado.  There are always many, many clan tents where people can trace their ancestors back to specific clans in Scotland.  Vendors of all sorts set up kiosks to sell tartans, kilts, Celtic jewelry, books, music, food, and other interesting wares associated with Scotland.
 The festivities are usually started with a gathering of the clans on Friday, and a grand parade on Saturday morning.  One year, Scott and his buddy Dan Keck, actually walked in the parade waving our family tartans.  
The Festival is host to competition of all kinds.  There are pipe and drum competitions, Celtic dance competitions, and our favorite, the Highland Games.
 We got to the games a little later than I would have liked, but Saturdays tend to be overbooked these days. We got there just as the sheaf toss was ending.  The object of this event is to toss a burlap bag of hay over a bar using only a pitch fork.  
The second event we watched was the hammer toss.  It has 2 division; one for men, and one for women. The competitors stood in the batter's cage on the local baseball field and threw the hammer.
The competitors are separated from the crowds by fences.  This sign was hanging on the fence, and I couldn't resist taking a picture of it.
 After watching the hammer throw, we wandered through the vendors tents and came across one that was selling traditional Scottish Haggis, meat pies, and deep-fried Scottish eggs.  We have joked every year about trying Haggis.  This was the year we actually tried it.
Ron was first.  The big goof scooped up a rather large "taste" of the stuff and shoved it into his mouth.  He handed the tray to me, but I passed it on to Scott. 
I think Scott's face says it all.  YUCK!!
I decided I might as well try a bite.  It was nasty!  It has a rather rubbery, chewy texture, is heavily spiced, and leaves a disgusting after taste in your mouth. Luckily, there was another vendor nearby that sold funnel cakes. 
We tried to get Seth to try it but he walked away from us.  At least Ron, Scott, Becca and I can now all say, "No thanks; I've already tried it!" Next year, maybe Ryan, G, & Leslie will be with us and we can talk them into trying it.

After our disgusting snack, we walked over to where the dancers had their stage set up.  Unfortunately, we must have just missed it because they were tearing down the stage and the dressing room.  

 But, we watched several wonderful pipe and drum groups perform. They were very impressive.  We got to stand relatively close and I filmed a little bit of two performances, but it is such a pain to add a video that I am going to just settle with the pictures.
After the pipe and drum competition, we wandered through the vendor's stalls.  The shoppers gathered around the vendor's displays are just as entertaining as the competitors.  It is amazing what people will spend their money on! There was one very odd, geeky kind of person we saw who must have spent a small fortune. When we first saw him, he was wearing a sword strapped to his hip.  By the time we had walked through the vendor's area, the same little guy had bought 2 or 3 swords.  When we were about to leave the festival, we saw him wearing a long cape!
Anyway, the last event we watched was the caber toss. This older gentleman put everyone else to shame!
 When he first hoisted the caber, he staggered all over the place trying to balance it.  I thought for sure he would drop it, but he flipped that thing end over end beautifully!
 We watched several other competitors try, but no one was nearly as accurate or practiced as he was.
 We also got to see what is under those kilts!  Some are longer, like the one in the picture below. But, some are much shorter.  Thank goodness for boxer briefs!
So, this is "the end" of my post sharing our experiences at the 2011 Highland Games and Scottish Festival.  
Can't wait until next year.


Anonymous said...

oh the sound of the piper and those bonny lads in their kilts. good memories of the Scottish clans gathering in Texas. Rae

The monkey bunch said...

Just knowing what haggis is , is enough to make sure I never taste it! Double Yuck!!
I would have loved to see the scottish games, though.