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updated: 6/15/2015 12:20 PM

Grab your kilt for annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Itasca

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  • The Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which returns this weekend to Itasca, features some athletic activities you don't see every day -- such as the 22-pound hammer throw.

      The Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which returns this weekend to Itasca, features some athletic activities you don't see every day -- such as the 22-pound hammer throw.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer/June 2014

  • Proceeds from the Scottish Festival and Highland Games this weekend in Itasca will benefit the Scottish Home in North Riverside.

    Proceeds from the Scottish Festival and Highland Games this weekend in Itasca will benefit the Scottish Home in North Riverside.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Scottish crafts and foods will be available Friday and Saturday during the 29th annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Itasca.

      Scottish crafts and foods will be available Friday and Saturday during the 29th annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Itasca.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer/June 2014

 
 

Even when rain attempts to ruin the annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games in Itasca, organizers and fest-goers alike find a way to continue the fun.

At last year's festival, the culmination of the entire event -- the closing ceremony that unites all bagpipers and bands who perform throughout the weekend -- could not happen outdoors due to torrential rain and lightning.

"Scots being Scots, they still had a party with dancing and music in the parking structure with the pipe bands, dancers and all the guests," said Gus Noble, president of the Chicago Scots.

This year, Noble hopes the weather doesn't force everyone to be so creative. After all, there's enough room for creativity on the schedule of the largest Scottish event in the Midwest.

In addition to Scottish dancing, bagpipe performances and competitions, children's crafts, and genealogy experts to help guests research their family trees, the 29th annual festival features the popular Heavy Athletics U.S. Open Championship (which will include World Champion Matt Vincent), a British car show of vintage autos and a "Ceilidh" -- a celebration of Celtic music.

Noble says the Chicago Scots, who organize the event, try to add new activities or attractions each year. For example, the festival traditionally features a Dogs of Scotland area, and last year they added Highland cattle to the mix. This year, the menagerie grows even bigger, allowing visitors to get up-close with Clydesdale horses.

With a laugh, Noble says, "We're building up our livestock."

In seriousness, Noble adds that he is particularly proud of the festival's music, which this year features returning Chicago-based fiddler and reigning national champion Tim MacDonald, Texas-based Cleghorn and Skerryvore from Glasgow, Scotland.

The latter recently was voted Scotland's best contemporary folk band, and Noble says the group combines traditional music, including bagpipes, with modern funk and dance rhythms.

All the fun has a serious mission, however. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Scottish Home in North Riverside. This small, private community has provided assisted living and nursing care for seniors since 1910.

Currently, the facility is expanding to build a new structure for Alzheimer's care.

Noble says the new building will house about a dozen residents and will be constructed with a design that aims to foster interaction.

"There will be a kitchen in the middle of the community great room rather than tucked away behind big, swinging doors. This way, as they're enjoying the fireplace and sitting room, residents will be engaged with the aromas from the kitchen, since smell is such an important memory trigger," Noble says. "We are designing this building throughout for best-in-class memory care, because it's the evolution of the care we've always provided at the Scottish home."

In addition to regular admission prices that will aid the Scottish Home, a Patron Weekend Pass is $150 and includes admission for two adults and two children, premier seating inside the Patron Tent, food and beverages and a private access VIP parking Pass. A 21-and-older Patron Weekend Pass is $125 for one person and includes festival entry, premier seating inside the Patron Tent, food and beverages including beer, and a private access VIP Parking Pass.

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