Fall has always been the season of change and of new beginnings. The new school year starts, the leaves change, pumpkin spice everything comes back, horror movies start playing on TV again…all the usual things people associate with fall. But there’s also one seriously cool fall event that most people don’t even know exists—the Ligonier Highland Games, held every year at Idlewild Park in western Pennsylvania.
Tucked away in the mountains of Ligonier, the Highland Games is a Scottish-themed food and cultural festival held at Idlewild Park every fall. Guests can experience staples of Scottish culture such as traditional Scottish cuisine and drinks, Highland dancing, a Scottish dog breed exhibit and show, live performances of Celtic music, and Celtic sports, to name a few. Members of prominent Scottish clans also set up tents where people can learn about the family’s history, genealogy, and their contributions to Scotland.
As a Scottish-American, and a registered member of Clan Turnbull, I’ve been going to the Scottish Games in some capacity or another for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had an appreciation for my family history, a love of shepherd’s pie, and the desire to pet every Westie I meet. It’s one of my favorite fall activities, and I look forward to it all year. It always makes me happy to know that there are people out there who are proud of their heritage and culture and want to pay homage to it in a festival.
We were lucky this year—there was a pretty big crowd. Even so, most people have no clue what I’m talking about when I mention that I’m hosting the Turnbull clan tent at the Scottish Games. And that’s a shame. I love the Games, and I love my cultural background, so it’s too bad that the event doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. But maybe it’s for the best. The Scots have an offbeat sense of humor, and we love to joke that we don’t get the attention we deserve. So if the Games became a national sensation, we’d have to find something different to complain about.
In any case, I had a blast in all the past years I’ve gone, I had a blast this year, and I’m sure I’ll have a blast next year. And even though it’s the Scottish Games, you don’t have to be Scottish to have a good time. Everyone is welcome to check it out and learn a new culture. There’s cute dogs, hearty food, dancing, live music, plenty of alcohol…there’s something for everybody. You don’t have to look hard to find something you like.
I recommend the Ligonier Highland Games for Scottish-Americans who want to express their pride in their heritage, or for open-minded people who are curious and want to learn a new culture. To learn more, visit http://www.ligonierhighlandgames.org/.