One of the events I look forward to every year is the Scottish Festival aka Scottish Fest in Orange County. When I tell my friends I go to this, they usually have no idea what it is.
There are Scottish fests all over the country actually. A Scottish Festival is this: Get thousands of folks together who usually share some, or most of the following traits:
- Have Scottish, English, Welsh, or even Irish heritage
- Have very fair skin, possibly even red hair
- Drink a lot of whiskey and beer (I actually prefer wine, which is hard to find at this event)
- Love to eat Fish-n-Chips, with malt vinegar of course
- Love to eat meat pies
- Watch men (and some gals now) doing sports like: Tossing a Caber, Throwing the Weight, doing the Farmer’s Walk, or Throwing the Hammer.
- Wear a kilt of your family tartan (plaid print). Mine is the MacGregor clan, but it’s ugly, so I wear another clan’s tartan as my kilt, scandalous!
- Have a desire to play the bagpipes, play the drums, or march in a band
- Have a desire to do some Highland Dancing
- Buy beautiful hard to find Celtic jewelery
- Listen to folk or rock bands like Bad Haggis
- Enjoy watching a sheep herding demonstration
The Bagpipe Bands
The bands all perform in competitions. There are 5 different grade levels of bands with #1 being the best. They have these competitions during both days so you’ll always hear some bagpipes in the background wherever you are in the festival.
This event is two days long. There’s stuff happening at all times in many areas of the fairgrounds. That’s what makes this so fun.
This is one of the most famous bagpipe songs. It’s called Scotland the Brave. This rendition is being performed by The Auld Town Band and Pipes. Hit play so you can get a sense of what you hear all day long! Several bands will play this in the competition.
There’s a large area where all the bagpipe bands are set up and practice all day. The public can walk all around there and watch all the bands as they get tuned up and practice.
Snare drums are everywhere. Often you’ll see just the snares practicing off in one area.
Every member of the band has the same outfit. They all have the same tartan kilt. The fancy thing hanging in the front on the kilt is called a sporran, which is Gaelic for pouch or purse. The sporran is traditionally only worn by men.
It’s so impressive to see the bands marching around. The image below is showing this band leaving the judging area while playing a song.
Bagpipes are quite complicated to play and you have to be extremely coordinated. It’s that whole tapping the head while rubbing your belly thing.
In the shot above you can see what’s called the Drones on the bagpipe. The longest drone closest to the head is the Bass Drone, next is the Inside Tenor Drone, then there’s the Outside Tenor Drone. Then you have the mouthpiece and the chanter, the pipe that the piper plays for the melody.
The cord isn’t just for decoration – it helps hold the whole thing together. People, you can’t have your drones flailing around!
The Drum Major leads the band to the competition area.
I always have to see these demonstrations – sheep herding! At every Scottish festival I’ve been to, they have sheep herding.
The trainer is at one end of the pen and says voice commands or whistles to their dogs to herd the sheep around. It’s really neat to see Australian Shephards and Border Collies doing their thing.
After the demonstration I was allowed to come into the area and pet the sheep!
They were extremely aware of where the dogs were from the demonstration and had an eye on them the entire time I was in there.
Clearly this guy below, was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing there.
There are two huge pavilions filled with vendors from all over the world selling Scottish, English, Irish, Welsh, or any British Isles products. Food, kilts, and other clothes, music, dishes, whiskey glasses, and a lot of jewelry, and much more, are all for sale here.
Each year I look for one of my favorite jewelers. Her name is Willow Zarlow and she made this bracelet above. You can see some of her jewelry on her site, www.willowsjewelry.com.
Originally, this section had no food shots. All the food at the fair didn’t look all that pretty. The food lines were long so they had to get that food out as fast as they could. However, I brought these bad boys in the photo above home with me.
If you don’t eat meat, you will not find anything to eat at this fair. There are only a few things to eat as a meal here. Fish and chips, bangers and mash (that’s sausage and potatoes), and meat pies, which are my favorite.
These meat pies are called cottage or shepherd’s meat pies and they will always have mashed potatoes on top. A cottage pie is usually made with beef and a shepherd’s pie is usually made with lamb. These meat pies have been around in Britain since the late 18th century and were the food of the poorer folks who lived in cottages.
The company who made these is Heritage Meat Pies. They always have some frozen pies for folks like me who want to buy a bunch and bring them home. These frozen pies were just as excellent at home as they are at the fair. They do not have a website so the only way to get these is at an they are working.
What’s A Clan?
So what is a Scottish Clan anyway? Wikipedia defines it as, “A kinship group among the Scottish people”. They are based on regions in Scotland. My clan, as mentioned above, is the MacGregor clan. This is based on my last name and each clan contains several family names.
I’m actually British. I have family heritage from Scotland, England, and Wales. My folks were both born in England and I am the first generation born here in the US. This is me on the left wearing my kilt of another clan. I’ve yet to learn what clan my kilt is from.
You might be surprised who in your family has Scottish heritage in their blood. You can do a search with your last name or some other family member’s last name to find out. Have a look! You never know.
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