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Scotland enthusiasts gather at Look Park to celebrate heritage

  • Frederick Benda of Westfield, who is a member of the Springfield Kiltie Pipe Band, competes as a drum major during the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, Saturday at Look Park. The band is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ashlyn Landry, 7, of Hampden, uses a pitchfork to throw a bale of hay over a pole during the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, Saturday at Look Park. Her mother, Erin Landry, along with other family members, helps coordinate the event each year.

  • Rosemary Caine of Greenfield, left, Piper Pichette of Deerfield, and Chris Devine of Deerfield, who are members of the Pioneer Valley Harpers, perform during the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jeff Kaste of Dover, New Hampshire, competes in the light hammer throw during the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, Saturday at Look Park. His best throw was 131 feet, 7 inches. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mike Zolkiewicz of Somers, Connecticut, competes in the weight over bar during the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, Saturday at Look Park. He holds the world record at 19 feet, 2 inches. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kevin Stewart, who is the historian for Historic Highlanders, describes medieval weaponry during the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, Saturday at Look Park. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@sarahhhgardner
Saturday, July 15, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — The sound of bagpipes playing “Scotland the Brave” filled the air around Look Park on Saturday long before the sights of the festival came into view.

First, the cars sporting Saint Andrew’s flag bumper stickers, filling the parking lot, where men and women changed from their gym shorts into kilts. Then came the 23 pipe bands assembled for the Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival.

The festival, now in its 24th year, is the only Celtic festival in Massachusetts, chairman Peter Langmore said. Profits from the festival are donated each year to Forum House in Westfield and River Valley Counseling Center in Holyoke. Each organization received a $10,000 donation from the Scottish Festival last year.

“It’s nice to be able to showcase the Celtic culture,” Langmore said. “And it’s fun! Look at everyone around you, dancing and laughing.”

On the main stage, Celtic rock band Albannach played for a lively crowd. On the parade ground, a man threw the caber, an athletic feat that involves tossing a 17-foot, 115-pound pole into the air.

Tents with typical festival food — corn dogs, onion rings, lemonade — were assembled, but so were stalls selling fish and chips, haggis, Scottish shortbread, Celtic jewelry and tartan scarves.

Bagpipe bands, Scottish athletes and Highland dancers all took part in competitions at the festival. Dancers, pipers and drummers could earn scholarships for winning.

A pack of Scottish dog owners hurried off to a sheepherding demonstration. Behind the dogs, a group of teenagers in kilts bought burgers before the bagpipe competition.

Pipers play in the Capital Region Celtic from Albany, New York, and practice for hours every week, competitors said. Some of them are from Irish and Scottish families, while others just like the music. They said they liked the competitions, but at that moment, they were taking a quick break.

“We meet a bunch of amazing people and go to some really cool places,” said competitor Molly Biitig, 19. “But these uniforms are really heavy and hot.”

She gestured at her shirt, vest, heavy kilt and tall wool socks, then took a drink from her friend’s lemonade as they walked away.

Some pipe bands travel all over the world for competitions like this one and larger. Brian Deimling, a corrections officer, and Wesley Cole, an accountant, have both been drummers for pipe bands for years. Right now they play with a band from Albany.

“I’m not Scottish or Irish, but I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Cole said. “I’ve played for so long that it’s just a part of who I am now.”

The goal of a good pipe band, Deimling said, is to get to the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

“Every time I get to one of these contests, I kind of ask myself why I do it,” Deimling said. “The bragging rights you can get at Worlds, to be able to say you’re the best in the world, is amazing.”

Some of the attendees were from families that have celebrated their Scottish heritage for centuries. The Historic Highlanders, dressed in period clothing from Scotland in the 1500s, demonstrated historically accurate cooking and living. Surviving members of Scottish clans yelled their families’ war cries at the start of the day.

“We just love to go to things like this,” said Amherst resident Patti Clouston, who attended the festival with her husband and daughters. “My name is Scottish. It goes back to the 1600s. And we love Scottish culture: the music, the food, the way people talk, the way people dress.”

Other visitors just came for good music and food. Leslie and James Frank, from Northampton, ate lunch with their friends Elliot and Janice Greenberg, from Longmeadow.

“I think it’s fun to be in the atmosphere, to see people showing off their clansmanship and their culture,” Elliot Greenberg said. “Plus, how often do you get to see a man in a skirt?”