As proud Scots, my husband and I absolutely loved the Highlands Festival! There was tons of live bagpipe & drum music, singers, Scottish food, drinks, a parade, cooking demonstrations, and most excitingly Scottish game competitions like Caber Tossing & stone or hammer tosses, and so much more!
Date: May 26th-28th
Location: Alma College Campus in Alma, MI
Cost: $7/day (5 and under free)
Family Friendly: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Yes (lots of walking)
Pet Friendly: Yes ($5 fee per animal)
Food: Standard Greasy Carnival Food, traditional highlands fare, or bring your own
Parking: Free parking all over, may be crowded
People from all over the United States and Canada come together to celebrate their Scottish heritage, or to enjoy Scottish/Highland culture. I used to visit this festival every year when I was younger and although this was my first time going in a few years, it was even more fun than I remember it being! Whether you’re Scottish or not, there’s so much for everyone to do here, as listed above!
Dozens or tents are set up around the festival featuring larger family clans, where clan members (or non members) can meet relatives, buy custom attire or souvenirs with their clan name on it, and learn more about where they came from. In addition to these tents, there are also lots of booths set up selling crafts, clothing, and more from all across the United Kingdom if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the clan booths. My family is (or at least was) a distant part of the Stewart clan, which I believe is a pretty small family, and therefor doesn’t typically have a tent set up, but other clans have been happy to tell me about their family history, which is always so interesting!
My favorite part of the highland games is the athletic aspect, because of how different it is from typical American sports. In the photo above, this competitor is preparing to pick up this metal object, spin around several times, and use his momentum and strength to throw it as far as possible. It may not sound exciting, but it’s mesmerizing! Some people can throw them more than 86 feet (did I mention they weigh about 50lbs?). I doubt I could even pick it up! Did you know that men don’t traditionally wear anything under their kilts? During the athletic performances, they are gracious enough to wear athletic shorts of some sort underneath, to keep the competitions family friendly!
My husband and I wore emerald green, and he wore a blue and green plaid pair of pants, but we forgot to take a good photo. People wear anything from full Scottish regalia (typically wearing their family’s tartan), to shorts and a t-shirt, so you can dress as festive or not as you please and still fit right in!
While Alma is a bit of a drive for us, it’s always such a joy to reconnect with our Scottish heritage, listen to bagpipes, meet new people, and see all there is to see at the Highlands Festival!
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