Texas’ oldest and finest Celtic festival returns for its 54th year to Salado, Nov. 13-15.
The Scottish Clan Gathering & Highland Games will be held at Pace Park off Main Street in downtown Salado.
Guests can enjoy caber tossing, world-class Highland dancing and as many as 100 bagpipers parading during the festival held in the Park on Salado Creek.
“The Gathering,” as it is commonly called, kicks off with a torch-lit ceremony Friday night, followed by a Welcome Social in the Central Texas Area Museum’s Hall of the Clans, at 423 S. Main Street.
Saturday events begin at 9 a.m. Guests who pay the entry fee at the Park grounds can delve into Scottish ancestry and heritage with clan society representatives, tap their toes to lively folk performances, or explore items offered by the many vendors selling Scottish goods. Meanwhile, various cultural competitions will be taking place in every corner of the grounds.
While activities commence at 9 a.m., a formal Festival Opening Parade, followed by welcome speeches, occurs at noon, featuring the massed pipe bands and Scottish family clan society representatives carrying tartan banners.
Guests can also watch the athletic competition on Saturday with men ages 18 to 39 competing in the Open category, men over 40 making up the Masters class, and all adult women in their own category completing the same events, which include putting the stone, tossing the Scottish hammer, tossing weights for distance, as well as for height, and tossing of the caber. The competition begins at 10 a.m. and runs continuously. Officials judging will include Central Texas Area Museum President David Boyens, also a long time former Highland Games athlete.
More events include the Highland Dance competition, coordinated by Donna Cusack and Diane Krugh. Dancing Judge will be Tracey Walton of Birmingham, Michigan. Piper for the Dance Competition will be Douglas Frobese. The highly athletic dance contests will feature continuous performances of the Highland Fling, Scottish Hornpipe, Sword Dance, Sean Triubhas and the Lilt. Many past Salado competitors have been world champions.
Sending reverberations across the grounds such as those that bounce off wild mountains and dark glens in Scotland will be the bagpipe and drum competition, for individual pipers and drummers as well as for bands.
Participants will include the host band, Houston’s St. Thomas Episcopal School, which previously has won five Juvenile World Pipe Band Championships held in Scotland. Other bands participating include the Silver Thistle Pipes & Drums of Austin and numerous other groups from all over Texas.
Renowned Piper Rose Adams of Austin will chair the piping competition. Others judging using rules of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Assoc., will include Robert Richardson, Ian K. MacDonald, and several others. Drumming Judge will be Douglas Stronach, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Featured folks singers at the festival will include Carl Peterson, the Drambeauties, Ravenmore, and more.
Even more competitions include the shortbread contest and the bonniest knees contests to be held mid-day on Saturday.
In addition, a worship service to include a “Kirking of the Tartan” ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Sunday in the Salado Civic Center Building. Jim Haney will preach at the service. The service will include a blessing of family tartans and a “Flowers of the Field” ceremony, honoring friends of the museum who have died in the last year.
Sunday also gives guests the chance to watch the children attempt athletic feats inspired by the adult Heavy Athletics performers. All children are invited to compete for no extra fee.
Another new event this year on Sunday after the church service will be a dog parade. Dogs whose owners pay the admission fee are welcome to join a parade through the grounds. All dog breeds are welcome if they “wear something Scottish” such as a plaid scarf.
Day passes to access all events on the Civic Center are $15 for adults on Saturday and $10 on Sunday. A two-day pass can be purchased for $20. Admission for children 6-12 is $6 either day. Children 13 and older pay adult admission. Younger children get in free. Saturday’s pass, also provides free admission to an evening event known as the Tattoo.
Guests arriving later on Saturday can purchase a ticket to just the Tattoo. Tattoo guests enjoy a twilight performance of bagpipes bands, along with performances by some of the top festival talent, including folk singers and dance contest winners. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday evening. Cost for those attending the Tattoo only is $6 for adults and $3 for kids 6-12.
Another special event of the weekend will be the Tartan Dinner, a formal dress event, at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Terrace, across I-35 from the Salado Holiday Inn Express. Tickets are $40 for individuals and $75 for couples.
Flyers and entry forms are available at the festival website at: www.saladoscottishfestival.com or call the Central Texas Area Museum at 254-947-5232.
Salado has Scottish culture embedded in its history going back to the days when Empresario Sterling Robertson brought about 600 Scottish families to Central Texas just before and after the Texas Revolution. His son, Elijah Sterling Clack Robertson, founded the village by donating lots of land (which became Main Street) to be sold to build a school, which became known as Salado College. The wife of one of their descendants, Mrs. Sterling (Lucille) Robertson founded the Central Texas Area Museum which began sponsoring this festival 54 years ago. During the Gathering each year, Salado celebrates its historic place as the “Scottish Heart of Texas.”