Note: Sorry this didn’t appear on Monday. I’ve had a series of computer problems that began Saturday morning.
If you’ve never tasted Scottish food a Highland Festival is a good place to try some of the traditional dishes, especially at the larger events. On a breezy day you might be able to smell the food throughout the festival grounds. Meat Pasties (small meat pies), Scottish Bangers (bratwurst-type sausage), fish and chips, and sometimes Mince and Tatties (ground beef gravy and mashed potatoes) can be purchased. Traditional American fare like hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries are usually available for the less adventurous diners. In Enumclaw event patrons can even find BBQ turkey thighs to gnaw on as well as corn-on-the-cob. Sodas, water, lemonade and smoothies along with tea and coffee are offered as beverages. Many of the games and festivals also include a beer garden for adults.
Sometimes there will be a booth giving samples of Haggis and/or selling it. Haggis is THE national dish of Scotland. It consists of the organ parts of a sheep (heart, kidneys, liver, lungs) along with oatmeal, spices and sometimes eggs and other ingredients which are ground together and stuffed into a cleaned and boiled sheep’s stomach forming a large football-sized sausage. The entire Haggis is then boiled until the meat is cooked through. The Haggis can sometimers be purchased at the games and festivals or can be ordered for delivery to your home.
Vendor booths – sometimes in one location and sometimes scattered throughout the grounds –are found at all events. Patrons can find t-shirts and various fabric, porcelain or glass items bearing clan names, names of Scottish entertainers and emblazoned with the name of the event itself. Scottish music CDs – vocal and instrumental, Celtic jewelry, butter-laden shortbread, tins of smoked herring, teas, candies, and other souvenirs line the tables of some booths. I don’t think Kettle Corn has a Scottish origin but it is frequently found at these events. Yum. The last time I purchased a box of shortbread my grand-children surreptitiously carried it away, piece by piece, and I didn’t even get a taste! The butter toffee almost suffered the same fate.
Some vendor booths have pre-made kilts available for purchase, or a kilt can be special ordered to fit your measurements in your choice of tartan fabric. Books of tartan fabrics indexed according to Clan names are available to aid you in finding your clan tartan. Also to be found are Clan tartan neckties and scarves, clan crest pins, kilt pins, belts and buckles to keep up your kilt and knee-high stockings. Sometimes you can also find lap-throws and books about Scotland.
All of the festivals and Games depend on volunteers for all aspects of the event, from general planning to clan and vendor booths and entertainment to parking. Larger Games and festivals, with their larger pools of volunteers, frequently have a tent that helps festival-goers discover their Scottish heritage. This might include information from a general history of Scotland to the specifics about which Clan a person belongs to and where they were and are located in Scotland. Under a large tent at the North Carolina Grandfather Mountain Games we attended an Introduction to Scottish Gaelic Session. Basic phrases (“How are you?”; My Name is…”) and a few songs in Gaelic were taught. We learned how to sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” in Gaelic and I still have the word sheet.
I have no doubt that there are some people who have no Scottish connections and attend the Games and Festivals solely for the food and music. Sadly, there are many Scottish descendents that have never been to a Highland Game or Festival or even heard of them. I was one of those until fourteen years ago even though the nearest event to where I live had been in existence for over thirty-five years.
Tomorrow you can read the conclusion of my Highland Games and Festivals blog and learn about the exhibits of Scottish animals, and the Children’s Areas and more.