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August 27, 2013 > Scottish Highland Gathering & Games

Scottish Highland Gathering & Games

By Jessica Noel Flohr

For nearly 150 years, California has been host to one of the largest gatherings in the world of Scottish, Celtic, and Irish descendants. Established shortly after the end of the Civil War, the San Francisco Caledonian Club has held the traditional "Scottish Highland Gathering and Games" in the Bay Area since 1866. This event, at times, has been the largest Highland Games gathering in the world. Nearly 100 clans were represented in 2012! The location of the Gathering has moved several times over the years, but since 1994, Scots and Irish, and those interested in their history and culture, have flocked to the Alameda County Fairgrounds every Labor Day weekend to join the festivities.

This is a great event for history buffs, families, shoppers, and foodies alike. Food is sold in generous portions, both traditional fair food and dishes unique to Celtic region such as meat pies, bangers, Scotch eggs and more. Whisky connoisseurs can purchase vouchers for the whisky tasting. Handcrafted items, Celtic memorabilia, and artisanal products will be for sale at over 100 vendor booths.

At the grandstand, opening ceremonies begin with the Kilted Mile race at 10:45 a.m. followed by the arrival of the Chief and important guests at 11:05 a.m. and a parade and gathering of the clans. Opening ceremonies officially launch at noon with Raising of the Colors and National Anthems. In the afternoon, men and women, both professional and amateur, will compete in the World Highland Games Super Series. Drums and pipe bands bring the spirit of Scottish traditions to life, rounding out the ceremonies.

Previous years' fairgoers all agree that the best part of the fair is the living history exhibit. It feels a little like a renaissance fair as actors play their parts and give demonstrations, but much more welcoming and informative. Volunteers in traditional garb will inform fairgoers about Scottish history. It's an excellent opportunity to learn about Scottish heritage!

Entertainment can be found around every corner at the Highland Games! Piping and dance competitions, Celtic rock bands, fiddlers, folk dances, heavy athletics, sheep dog trials, and much more will delight the crowds. A Children's Glen provides fun for the wee ones. Birds of prey, Scottish cattle, and beautiful Clydesdales are on display throughout the fairgrounds. Historical re-enactments bring ancient battles to life.

There is much to see, so plan your visit carefully! If the two full days don't sound like enough time, come to the Friday night opening concert at the San Ramon Marriot. On Saturday night a Scottish party called a Ceilidh will be held at the Red Lion Pub at the fairgrounds from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fill your belly with tri-tip, chicken, beer, and ale while watching the dances or listening to lively music.

Tickets are available at the gate the morning of the event. For adults, a two-day ticket is just $27. One-day tickets are $20. Students ages 12 to 17, as well as seniors age 65 and up, can purchase tickets for $12. Military members with a valid ID and children ages 11 and under get in free. Want a great view of the games? Pick up Trackside Terrace tickets for just $35 per day and get an up-close and personal seat, as well as a buffet lunch and no-host bar. Whisky tasting, the Friday night concert, and the Saturday Ceilidh require separate admission.

Scottish Highland Gathering & Games
Saturday, Aug 31 and Sunday, Sept 1
8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Alameda County Fairgrounds
4501 Pleasanton, Ave., Pleasanton
(888) 769-2345
Tickets: $12 - $27
Parking: $8

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