Milwaukee Highland Games

Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one of the great beer capitals of the world. And no wonder; with such a high contigency of Celts there’s always good reason to celebrate. This weekend will be no exception at the Milwaukee Highland Games. Publicist David Berger gives us the details.

What is your own ethnic heritage/background?
My own heritage is a mix of German and Scots ancestors, and I am a MacLaren and a participating member of my clan MacLaren. I am an active Scot including holding the office of President of the Saint Andrew’s Society of Milwaukee, which is Wisconsin’s oldest charity, dating from 1859.

How, when and why did you get involved with the event?
Growing up with the Scots heritage, I was and am involved in St. Andrew’s events, and that includes other activities like Scottish Fest-the Milwaukee Highland games. They too are the oldest ethnic festival in Wisconsin. I was asked to join the Board of Scottish Fest and remain active on that management Board too. I personally enjoy the effort taken to put the games together and to take part in a day of kilts, music, games and much more.

What is the event’s core mandate?
The games have their roots in Saint Andrew’s sponsored games dating back to the 19th century, our mandate is to provide a true Scottish cultural experience, heavy games, dance competition and piping competition. Offering the Scottish experience to families here.

How has it grown over the years?
From roots in a great “picnic” the games continues to grow, 4 years ago we moved our games to Hart Park in Wauwatosa, a Milwaukee suburb in the heart of the county. A larger space for us to operate in, and allow us to accommodate a larger crowd. We are proud to target a family oriented crowd.

Who attends the gathering?
At the core we have the clan tent area, with clan members setting up a clan tent village, clan members attend and share time with fellow clans people. Another core group are the athletes who take part in the heavy games, the pipers and pipe bands and their families, and of course the dance competitors and their families. Finally we have the public, people-families who come for the entertainment, the music, the games and our haggis taco eating contest.

What can they expect to experience this year?
There is so much going on in a fully packed day. As noted above, heavy games, dancing and piping competition, great food, clan area, vendor village to shop for kilts and all things Scottish. We also offer archery and ax demonstrations, sheep dogs working sheep, cricket lesson’s, haggis taco eating competition, bands offering music all day long, a children’s area, the Tribe of the Blue Rose demonstrating Celtic war weapons and more.

Why is it an important event for the community there?
This festival is the first ethnic festival in our area in spring. We really kick off the season in a community with literally festivals celebrating many other cultures, there is a fest each weekend on our season here. The built up cabin fever helps us, as does our heritage which appeals almost universally. Who doesn’t perk up at the sound of the pipes? I believe that my comments above apply to all, our community loves to celebrate cultures through Festivals. The family appeal, the large number of offering from foods and entertainment make for a fun packed day.

What are the plans for the event in the years ahead?
This year we celebrate our 76th year as a Fest, we look to being active on the first Saturday of June as long as the sun shines, and pipes can be heard.