St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit Highland Games

The oldest, continuous Highland Games in North America takes place this weekend at Greenmead Historical Park in Livonia, Michigan. Here, event Chair Cathy Hasse opens up about her heritage, and her involvement with the famed festival.

My own heritage is Scottish, Irish and German. I grew up thinking that my only Celtic connection was Irish. My family followed Irish traditions and celebrated everything Irish. About twenty-five years ago, I started doing some family genealogy and found I did have Scottish ancestry as well. My husband is Scottish and I was extremely pleased that we had one more thing in common!!

At that time my husband was involved in the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit. I was accompanying him to the meeting and events of this great benevolent group. Now I could join and become even more active. I was impressed with the dedication of the members of the St. Andrew’s group and knew it was something that I was willing to devote a lot of time to. In the past fifteen years or so I have been very involved with the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit holding different offices. But, I knew that the best part of the Society was the Highland Games and for the past twelve years I have been General Chair of the Highland Games. This summer we celebrate the 164th Annual Highland Games. We bill ourselves as the “oldest, continuous Highland Games in North America”. It is with great pride that our members say this. It truly is something to be proud of.

Challenges & Rewards
Is it challenging to be the Chair of such a large event? Absolutely!! It is rewarding?  Positively!! I have made many great friends through my involvement with the Highland Games. I have learned more than I ever thought I needed to know about renting dumpsters, port-a-johns and golf carts and buying snow fencing. I have had the opportunity to hear some wonderful Scottish entertainers from all over the globe and have learned that there are some great Celtic music groups right in our local area.  Our Games are put on entirely by volunteers. We have about 350 volunteers.  We have members, spouses of members and friends and family of members. It is a good time for community people to get involved in a good way.

The Games
The money that we raise at our Highland Games is all for charity. So it is important for me to try and watch the budget and do what we can to help the less fortunate. But, I still feel that the real reason for hosting the Games is to share our great Scottish heritage with others. It is important to let others know about our traditions, lore and history.  The Highland Games can begin to do this in one day. A few years ago our tag line for our Games was “give us a day, and we’ll give you Scotland”. How true was this!! Our local residents that come to our games learn about the Scots and their contributions to the world. The nearly one thousand children attending our Wee Bairns area have a great time while designing their own targe or tartan and are learning something at the same time. The parents of these children, be they a Scots, a Scot-wanna-be or just there for the fun of the day go away more knowledgeable about Scotland then when they came and that is important to all who put on our GamesI remain active in other aspects of the St. Andrew’s Society of Detroit. It is the oldest benevolent organization in the State of Michigan.   We have a Scottish Arts Scholarship Program (where much of the money raised at the Games goes) and this is a fantastic program. The winners of the Scholarships come to our November meeting to perform for our members. It is great evening to see that the young people of today are still interested in bagpiping, Highland Dancing, and other forms of Scottish Arts. Many of our older members have tears in their eyes as they watch the young folks perform the dances that they knew as children.  We need to encourage more interest in the Scottish Arts. If it is our legacy to pass on these traditions we need to support them every chance we can.

The Future
If we could see into the future, I would hope that we would see a continuing interest in all cultures, and, that all of these cultures would be working together. We need to encourage young people not only to love Scottish or Celtic things but leave them with a sense of commitment. We need to teach them, by example, that volunteering should be part of one’s life. Is this a good legacy? I think so.