Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - September 2, 2011

Amazing games

Everyone is welcome to join in Scottish Highland Gathering & Games this weekend

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Mock battles, athletes, birds of prey, Celtic dancing, Mary Queen of Scots with her entourage, and a masters class on Scottish whisky. The 146th Scottish Highland Gathering & Games at the Fairgrounds tomorrow and Sunday offers all this and more.

"We want everyone to come, not just Scotsmen," said Floyd Busby, media chairman for the Caledonian Club of San Francisco, which presents the event. The club has had a booth at Pleasanton's First Wednesday street parties all summer for members to introduce themselves.

The Scottish fun begins this afternoon in downtown Pleasanton with the March under the Arch at 5 p.m. The Alberta Caledonia Pipe Band from Edmonton, Canada, will participate along with the U.S. Marine Band San Diego.

Then this weekend the Alameda County Fairgrounds features everything Scottish with seven stages of continuous entertainment. Two will present what could be called Celtic Heritage, said Busby.

"That's where you have Scottish country dancing, the Scottish Fiddlers Rally and Celtic Harpers with Alasdair Fraser, one of the top Scottish fiddlers," Busby said. "There are different dance groups -- from Monterey, Santa Rosa, Piedmont -- at any given time."

The other five stages have Celtic Rock.

"The Browne sisters are there every year," Busby said. "It's a different type of music -- rock 'n' roll but with bagpipes."

Tempest is returning, which has performed at all but one of the 17 Games held at the Fairgrounds in Pleasanton. From Australia, Brother, which includes the Aboriginal didgeridoo, has a world-wide following.

The "Tribal" element of Celtic Rock is provided by Albannach (an ancient word for Scotland), which is coming from Scotland, Busby explained.

"It's all percussion with one bagpipe, like the music from 'Braveheart' when they were ready to battle each other," he said.

Athletics -- Invitational U.S. Heavy Events Championships and the IHGF World Caber Championships -- are another favorite of the crowds as they watch from the Grandstand as cabers are balanced and hurled, as are heavy weights.

"It is the world championship in the professionals," Busby said. "In addition to the pros we have amateurs in the women's class and masters' class -- older people who've passed their prime."

"A lot come from the eastern seaboard," he added. "Our games are considered one of the most prestigious an athlete can be in."

History will come alive at the Gathering, with Mary Queen of Scots, and her travel entourage of highland warriors.

"The highland warriors themselves do battle with the big claymores, two-handed swords," Busby said, "against Roman legions and invading Vikings."

On both days the massed pipe bands, 26 this year, will perform at 3:45 p.m. in a Grandstand Show.

"The lone piper comes up on stage and starts playing Amazing Grace, then the drum major raises the big staff and 650-700 pipes and drums come into it," Busby said. "It's very stirring."

Puttin' on the plaid

What: 146th Scottish Highland Gathering & Games

When: 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday, Saturday, followed by the Scottish Party (Ceilidh) at the Red Lion Pub on the Fairgrounds with free entertainment and barbecue dinner at extra cost; 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 3-4

Where: Alameda County Fairgrounds

Tickets: 2-day adult, $27; 1-day, $20

Seniors and youths 12-17, $12

11 and under, military, free

Events:

* Heavy events -- Super Series World Team Championship

* Western U.S. Highland Dancing

* Irish Pavilion -- Irish Step Dancing

* Entertainment -- Traditional and Celtic Rock

* Celtic Heritage -- Fiddling, harping, singing, dancing

* Living History -- Reenactment guilds. Period artisans and craftsmen

* Gathering of the Clans -- 100 clan tents -- research your heritage

* Children's Glen

* Birds of prey

* Sheep dog trials

* Clydesdale Horse Team

* Highland Cattle

* Five-A-Side soccer

* Rugby and ancient Scottish game of Shinty

* Vendors in five buildings

* Food -- steak pie, fish and chips, British banger or Scotch Egg, ales or beer, and regular fair food

* British Motor Car Cavalcade

* Kilted Mile -- running competition for all ages

* Whisky tasting -- sample malt whiskies or attend a Master Class seminar (additional cost)

* 3:45 p.m. Grandstand Show -- Massed Pipe Bands

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