September 23, 2008

Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival

The Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival is one of the biggest Celtic festivals in the US. Held at Estes Park, Colorado from September 4 to 7, 2008, the 32nd annual festival was a magnificent affair, showcasing traditional Highland Games, Irish dancing, pipe bands galore, caber tossing, over 90 clans, gallons of Guinness and Glenfiddich, the opportunity to buy every conceivable piece of Scottish merchandise imaginable, a massive parade, a magnificent Tattoo, jousting, featuring knights in full armour, some of Scotland's top Celtic and Gaelic entertainers, more Scotch pies than the average constitution could handle.................. I could go on.
Highlights of the Tattoo, stage shows and closing banquet were the magnificent performances of the US Marine Corps Band from 29 Palms, California. Whether performing with razor sharp precision and impeccable choreography or wowing the crowds with their unbelievable jazz routines, the band members were the darlings of the festival.
I had the huge pleasure of singing at the evening Tattoos and at the Opening ceremonies, accompanied by the Marine Band and two magnificent Pipe Bands, including Ottawa's own Highland Mist Pipe Band. How a Scottish Canadian found herself singing God Bless America with this amazing backup band is still a bit of a mystery. Great life experience though. The decidedly chilly evenings and the thin air at 7,500 feet added an interesting challenge.

The blood stirring band of the tent performances was Albannach - a mighty group of Scotsmen and one woman, whose ear splitting Celtic rock performances had crowds, spanning four generations, dancing wildly to their compulsive sound. I bought one of their live CD's, which definitely loses something in the translation, but will be great to keep in the car for boring long journeys.

Almost the highlight of the entire week was the impromptu ceilidh held late one night in someone's room back at the Y hostel, where all the noisy pipe and brass bands were kept out of the way. It's impossible to manufacture times like that. With an age span of 13 to mid 70's, great camaraderie, no TVs, possibly a couple of Scotches, and an endless stream of songs and pipe tunes to sing and hum, it was a timeless gathering.

Photos of Denis Watson and Carol Anderson courtesy of Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival

Read more about the festival.