Each year for the past several years I have attended the Highland Games and Celtic Festival. The first year I went they were known as the “Meadow” Highland Games and Celtic Festival, but since then the event has changed locations and so has changed names. I always enjoy my time at the festival. So many of my friends also go that it’s almost like a big reunion. We don’t make plans to go together, we just all end up there and meet up with each other at random times throughout the day, parting ways only to run into each other again later.
I admit I’ve never watched much of the games. I have seen enough of them to know what goes on (a lot of throwing things) and I know the last couple of years there has been a rugby match. But the games aren’t the reason I go. I go for the atmosphere of the place. There’s nothing like walking up to the gate and hearing the bagpipes playing, sometimes a couple of different groups of them playing different tunes to warm up. I love to see the crowds of people dressed in their tartans or in costumes of various sorts. The beat of drums follows everyone all day. There’s authentic Celtic food (along with the regular fair-type of foods like funnel cakes and chicken tenders) and more to buy than you could ever hope to have money for on any one weekend. There is a whole section dedicated to clan tents; each registered clan can set up their own tent to show off their tartan and their clan history, and they parade through the field and give their war cry on Sunday.
My family is, of course, very proud to be American. But I am also proud of my Irish and Scottish ancestry, and the Celtic festival is my chance to immerse myself in that culture as much as I can on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
There was one big disappointment for me this year, however. The music on the main stage was not what I would call “Celtic.” It was more like rock music with a fiddle and the occasional bagpipe thrown in. One band was better than the others, but still leaned too close to the rock genre for my taste. While I did enjoy the rest of the festival, the music hangs over it like a cloud. You can hear this wherever you go at the festival and it’s what sets the mood. So when it isn’t Celtic, the mood isn’t quite right, either. I was so disappointed, I’m considering only going for one day next year rather than two. But, who knows, I could change my mind by then.
And if Albannach comes back I will be there any time they are on stage.
Overall it was an enjoyable weekend, but this is the first time I’ve found myself looking back and wondering if it was worth the money. BUT I did get to dress up in my costume I wear as a member of the Virginia Renaissance Faire, and that is always a major plus!