Sacramento Valley Scottish Games & Festival

One of North America’s oldest and most respected Celtic events, the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival celebrates its 137th anniversary later this month. Gordon V. Scott, Past Chief of the Caledonian Club of Sacramento, fills us in on the festivities.

What is your own ethnic heritage/background?
I’m proud to be Scots, Irish and Italian, a real American.

How, when and why did you get involved with the event?
Looking back I can remember attending the Sacramento Games back in the late 1960s. I didn’t didn’t get involved until 1985. In the meantime I had moved to San Francisco and back again, traveled to Scotland in 1973 and bought my first kilt when I was there. In 1985 my wife worked with a woman who was into Scottish Country Dancing and when she found out I had a kilt talked us into joining a dance class. From there we joined the Caledonian Club of Sacramento and started working the Games. We enjoyed the other members and the sense of community and pride and wanted to share all that with everyone else. Plus it was great fun.

What is the event’s core mandate?
The Caledonian Club of Sacramento sponsors the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival to provide an arena for Scottish competition and arts, and to provide education and entertainment to the public on ‘things Scottish’ in all their cultural aspects and generate funds for charitable gifts and cultural scholarships that are offered by the Caledonian Club.

How has it grown over the years?
In the time I have been involved in the Games it has grown from a one day event with mainly Scottish competitions, with local participation, operated by Club members to a full weekend with all the traditional competitions, attracting international competitors, one of the largest clan area in North America, Scottish subject matter lecture series, musical entertainment, goods and food vendors, displays of Scottish animals and Scottish historic groups with hundreds of participants and volunteers including community partner organizations

Who attends the gathering?
As you might expect, most of our guests have some Scottish heritage or are interested in things Scottish. Though we’re very pleased that we see a wide attendance from folks who are interested in all sorts of ethnic celebrations. Our guest surveys also demonstrate that families with young children compose our largest single demographic.

What can they expect to experience this year?
A great time! It is a real Hobson’s choice with so many things going on at the same time. One can watch world class athletes, Highland dancers, pipers and drummers, drum majors competing or attend a lecture say on the history of tartan, listen to Scottish harp and fiddle music, take a lesson in Scottish Country Dancing, check out Scottish animals, including Highland cows, walk though Scottish historic groups’ encampment and learn all about their eras, find one’s Scottish roots in the Glen of the Clans, enjoy a beverage and a great meat pie or a scone and even haggis while listening to outstanding musical groups or experience the thrill of the massed pipe bands. We’re bringing back the Wicked Tinkers and 1916, both very popular ‘Celtic Rock’ bands, Irish folksinger Seamus Kennedy, and Scottish fiddler John Taylor.

Why is it an important event for the Celtic community there?
Celebrating our 137th Anniversary the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival brings together the best of Scottish competitions, entertainment and education. For our competitors it is the time to demonstrate what they have learned and practiced, to measure themselves against competitors from all over and to excel. For those interested in their Scottish heritage it is an opportunity to learn a bit more, to celebrate their common heritage, listen to the pipes, the harp, and the fiddle and have a great time. Plus with all the goods vendors a chance to pickup that new kilt, new skirt, book, jacket or other item.

Why is it an important event for the non-Celtic community there?
In addition to our local community partners who assist us in presenting the Games the larger community joins with us in celebrating the diversity of our area. We’re fortunate that in the metro area we have a number of ethnic celebrations, so we all get an opportunity to learn from and celebrate each other. Besides, it’s good, clean family fun, and doesn’t cost arm and a leg.

What are the plans for the event in the years ahead?
We take great pride in being referred to as ‘The Friendly Games’. So we continue our efforts to be friendly to all the volunteers, participants, competitors, vendors, and especially our guests. We strive to improve the overall experience of the Games without losing that ‘friendly’ feel.