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Games, music, food take center stage at Scottish Festival and Highland Games

Clan Gunn marches in the Parade of Clan Tartans during a past Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Itasca.
Clan Gunn marches in the Parade of Clan Tartans during a past Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Itasca.

ITASCA – An opportunity to be immersed in Scottish culture – everything from bagpipe music and Highland dancing to haggis and whisky – takes place June 15 and 16 in Itasca at the 32nd annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

Sponsored by the Chicago Scots, the largest Scottish cultural organization in North America, the two-day festival will be at Hamilton Lakes, 1 Pierce Place. The family-friendly event is expected to draw more than 10,000 people.

Festival Chairman Allan Garraway explained the significance of the event.

"It’s the largest display of Scottish culture in the Midwest and attracts visitors from all over North America and around the world," Garraway said.

The festival continues to grow in popularity as more attractions are added, he said.

"We keep expanding our reach and range of offerings," Garraway said. "This year we will host the largest bagpipe and drumming competition in the United States."

Proceeds from the fest benefit Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care, which was established in 1845 and provides assisted living, specialized memory care, skilled nursing and respite care.

The festival features a wide variety of activities and attractions, including the bagpiping and drumming championship.

It also will feature haggis-hurling and haggis-eating contests, as well as the Men in Kilts contest and Highland dancers. There also is a shortbread contest.

Other attractions include whisky tasting, Celtic rock music and a wide variety of children’s activities. There will be rugby games, a classic British car show and information on Scottish genealogy. A Scottish petting zoo and a Celtic market that features kilts, candy, jewelry, soccer jerseys and haggis also will be featured.

The festival runs from 1 to 10 p.m. June 15. Day one events include the heavy athletics exhibition – the Scottish version of a strongman competition – which has roots in the 10th century.

The Glengarry Bhoys will be the headline attraction on the Celtic Rock stage. The day also features a whisky VIP master class, solo pipe band competition and the Heather Queen competition, featuring the crowning of the festival’s queen and court.

The event continues from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 16. The heavy athletics competition, including the caber toss, 22-pound hammer throw, sheaf toss and the clachneart – flinging a 16-pound river stone – is one of the day’s highlights.

The Midwest Pipe Band Championship is another day two attraction and features more than 40 pipe bands and 350 solo performances. The Highland dance competition and the Rugby Sevens Highland Challenge also will take place.

Additionally, genealogy and cultural exhibits will provide insight into Scottish ancestry. The Parade of Clan Tartans and the Men in Kilts contest also are scheduled.

The festivities conclude with the closing ceremonies and massed bands show, a concert featuring as many as 1,000 bagpipers and drummers performing traditional musical selections.

Online tickets for the festival June 15 are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 60 and older, and free for children 12 and younger. Online tickets for June 16 are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $8 for children 4 to 12, and free for children 3 and younger. Ticket prices increase at the gate.

Parking is $5. A two-day parking pass is available for $8.


If you go

WHAT: Scottish Festival and Highland Games

WHEN: 1 to 10 p.m. June 15 (all areas open by 4 p.m.) and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 16

WHERE: Hamilton Lakes, 1 Pierce Place, Itasca

COST: Ticket prices vary


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