Scotland invades St. Louis with games



Elizabeth Scofidio / Contributor

I have traveled all over the country of Scotland, and never have I seen more kilts in one location than in Forest Park this weekend.

The St. Louis Scottish Games and Cultural Festival took place this past Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26-27. The St. Louis Scottish Games Corporation states on their website that the goal of the festival is “to foster and encourage open exchange of cultural, educational, and recreational concepts and pursuits between those with an interest in the culture and heritage of Scotland and others in the Greater St. Louis area.”

Elizabeth Scofifio / Contributor
Elizabeth Scofifio / Contributor

The festival was a crossroads of Scotland and the U.S., of old and new. A man wearing a kilt walked around carrying bagpipes, a beer and an iPad. Two sword fighters dressed in medieval garb fist pumped after a battle.

A $10 student entrance fee gave access to the festival on Saturday, and there was more than enough going on to get your money’s worth.

Sounds of bagpipes echoed throughout the festival and into the parking lot to greet those arriving. This music was provided by a pipe band competition that lasted through much of the day. Pipe bands, consisting of bagpipers and drummers, had traveled from around the region to compete. Soloists played in the morning, groups in the afternoon.

The musicians’ outfits, complete with kilts and high socks that seemed all too heavy for the hot day, their precise movements and their musical talent created a professional and impressive atmosphere as they performed. Still, while waiting for their turn to compete, one conductor reminded his band over and over, “Smile!” These games, while formal and well choreographed, were meant to entertain.

Of course, the real games at the event that everyone was looking forward to were the athletic ones. This included the caber toss, where athletes throw a large wooden pole with the objective of flipping it over, and the sheaf toss, where athletes use a pitchfork to hurl a bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar high above their heads.

Elizabeth Scofidio / Contributor
Elizabeth Scofidio / Contributor

Other activities, such as sword fighting, sheepdog demonstrations and highland dancing filled the day. A music tent also hosted various Celtic bands, including Keltic Reign and Plaid to the Bone.

For many, this festival was more than a fun day at the park. Dozens of Scottish clans had tents during the weekend and used the time to have a clan meet-up.

Larry Greer, the State Deputy Chief of the American Clan MacGregor Society, was eager to connect with his clan and meet with people who were interested in their Scottish heritage.

“That’s one reason we’re here: to promote genealogy and knowledge of where we come from,” he said.
Greer wasn’t always connected to his Scottish heritage. “We had no clue,” he said. “But I did as much research as I could.” The research is impressive, with photos, maps and genealogical records filling the tent.

“It’s amazing how much we have in common. You never realize how much you share with people you never knew,” Greer said about meeting others who share the MacGregor heritage.

He told anecdotes of meeting other MacGregors, and how they share large portions of their personalities. “It’s made it a lot of fun.” He now believes that personality is something embedded in a person’s DNA rather than a result of their upbringing.

A closing ceremony late Saturday afternoon ended the festival. All 11 competing bands came together to play “Amazing Grace,” followed by “Scotland the Brave.”

Their military-like precision and thundering melodies and drums gave an enthusiastic send-off to the weekend.