By Christy Corp-Minamiji
Forget Scrooge McDuck and the image of the dour Scot. The picture of Scottish heritage and culture presented at the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival at the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland is a vibrant, in-your-face look at Scotland.
Over centuries of rugged history, Scotland has developed customs, dishes, music and sports emblematic of pride in a unique identity. The cultural celebration at the fairgrounds continues today.
Love ’em or hate ’em, bagpipes are inescapable at any Scottish Games. Visitors to the Scottish Games and Festival experience the bagpipe in a spectrum from formal to primal.
Pipe and drum bands compete with military precision. Showcasing the bagpipe in formalwear, pipe and drum corps flaunt the pageantry of order.
At the other end of the spectrum, bagpipes let down their hair and dance (literally) on the tables in performances by tribal Celtic and Celtic rock bands. The two stages this year host the bands The Wicked Tinkers, Stout Rebellion, Tempest Celtic Rock, and guitarist Colin Clyne.
Robert Burns knew what he was about when he penned his “Address to a Haggis.” The much maligned dish of Scotland can best be described as a meatloaf on seasoning steroids. For those willing to brave a lunch that resembles a biologic accident, haggis can be had, and yes, enjoyed in Woodland this weekend.
Other culinary offerings range from the less terrifyingly authentic — meat pies, sausage rolls, bangers, and fish-and-chips, to the banal — hamburgers, tri-tip and chicken. For the sweet-tooth, kettle corn, crepes, shortbread, scones, strawberry shortcake and ice cream are among the many chances for a sugar high.
Among the wide selection of rollicking drinking songs, the refrain of one tune by “Stout Rebellion” said it all: “Where’s the whisky?” Please note that there is no ‘e’ in Scotch Whisky.
So, where is the Whisky? At a Whisky tasting and seminar featuring “six different single malt whiskies.” The one-hour seminar is offered at 12:45 and 2:45 p.m. Separate tickets may be purchased at the information booth. Whisky not your drink of choice? Serious beer drinkers can rejoice. In addition to the event-standard Coors, on-tap choices included Guinness, Newcastle and Full Moon.
Drinking songs not withstanding, the Scottish Games and Festival is ideal for kids. The “Lads and Lassies” area offers games such as bean bag and ring tosses (25 cents per ticket). Older children have the opportunity to participate in a junior caber toss.
And the weapons … What kid (or grownup) doesn’t dream of holding a real broadsword? At the Buchanan clan tent, Kevin Buchanan gave an extensive history on the evolution of Scottish weaponry to three children who were delighted to hold a series of swords beginning with the two-handed Claymore and ending with a one-handed, basket-hilt broadsword.
In the Walk through History, camps re-enact Scottish military history from the Roman Empire through World War II. Here, visitors can fire a ballista, a Roman weapon looking like a cross between a catapult and crossbow designed to fire stones (rubber balls). Those with “Braveheart” longings can be treated to a discussion of weapons, weaponry and armor with the chance to see, touch and hold chain mail, a claymore, a small crossbow or a Morningstar flail.
Less bloodthirsty children may be drawn to the animal exhibits. Dogs, sheep, cattle and horses with genetic roots in Scotland are on display. One of the more distinctive individuals at the Games is “Mac.” A 5 1/2-year-old Highland steer, resembling a cross between a Longhorn and a Muppet, owned by Tina and Ben Riordan, Mac is an annual visitor.
With the variety of events, it is nearly possible to overlook the centerpiece of the Scottish Games and Festival — the Games. According to a competitor named Frank, though events such as the caber toss go back centuries, they were for “bragging rights” between the clans. The ability to heave an 18- to 19-foot, 200-pound log end over end would indeed confer bragging rights, no matter the century.
Whether your tastes run to whisky or shortbread, precision or primal beats, dance or dogs, or you just really want to hold a sword, entertainment and education can be had at the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival this weekend.