St. Andrew’s Society Detroit Highland Games

Greenmead Historical Park in Livonia, Michigan is an ideal setting for this weekend’s 163rd annual Highland Games, hosted by the St. Andrews Society of Detroit. The event’s co-chair Cathy S. Hasse tells us what’s in store for the coming days.

What is your own ethnic heritage/background?
My own background is Celtic. The family genealogy was somewhat sparse but I grew up knowing more about my Irish background than my Scottish or German background.  When I started doing some family genealogy about twenty years ago, I found Scottish roots. Since then I have immersed myself in all things Scottish.

How did you get involved with the Detroit Highland Games?
My husband was a member of the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit and I attended many meeting and events with him. I was taken in by the respect for customs and tardyons. One of my favorite activities of the Society was the Highland Games. I started volunteering and have been Games Co-Chair or Chair for the past thirteen years.

What is the festival’s core mandate?
The St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit’s Annual Highland Games main purpose is to share Scotland with the rest of the world. The Games give us a chance to teach others about our history, our heritage, our customs, our music and our food with others. All of the money raised at our Games is donated to charity. So our mandate is two-fold.

How has it grown over the years?
The Detroit Games have truly grown over the years. This summer we celebrate our 163rd Annual Highland Games. We bill ourselves as the oldest continuous Games in North America. We are proud of this. We host about 12,000 people for a one day event.  Our Games are still put on entirely by volunteers. The Games are a major event in the community. Some of the tag lines that we have used in the past for our event include, “give us a day and we’ll give you Scotland”, “celebrating 163 years of pride and passion” and one with a little more modern twist, “Get your Scottish On”. These catchers entice all to attend. Scots love to come and see and hear about their background and others of different ethnicities come to learn and compare.

What can audiences expect this year?
The 163rd Games will have over 30 clans in attendance, at least fifteen bagpipe bands, many Scottish and Celtic vendors, world class heavy athletes in competition and about 175 highland dancers.

Are young people still interested in Celtic culture?
Because the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit believes that children are truly our future, our Games offer a wonderful Wee Bairns area. Here the children not only have fun but they learn about Scottish tradition and customs. We have actors who help tell Scottish history for the young and the not so young. The children can design targes and their own tartans. We have more than 800 children visit this area of our Games every year.

What are the plans for the festival in the years ahead?
As we move closer to our 165th Games we are looking ahead at what will happen to our Games. The Games committee meets every two weeks year long discussing how to improve our event and how to make it continually grow. Enlightening and educating the community helps to get our word out. Many feel that being steeped in customs and traditions helps to keep the interest going. Isn’t it fun to see a six year-old lad walking proudly about in his kilt next to a eighty six year old gentleman walking in his kilt while a dapper young man in his twenties looks on? Is the younger generation just taken with the kilt and the sound of the bagpipe? Who really knows – but they are interested in their roots and their family background. These same young people continue to come to Burns’ Night celebrations and St. Andrew’s Dinners. Let hope it continues.