RICHMOND — Don your kilts and dust off your harps; the 16th annual Rhode Island Scottish Highland Festival is nearly here.
A full lineup of music, dancing and heavy athletics, as well as traditional Scottish food and merchandise, will fill the Washington County Fairgrounds this Saturday.
This year’s event kicks off with pipe and drum competitions at 8 a.m., followed by athletic competitions beginning at 9 a.m. The daylong festival includes traditional competitions in highland dancing, drumming and the crowd-favorite of heavy athletics, which will include professional athletes for the second time this year. The Mystic Scottish Country Dancers will provide demonstrations and dancing lessons to the tunes of the Celtic Harpers. The Baltimore-based American Rogues band, who describe their music as Canadian-American CeltRock Folk Classical, will also provide musical entertainment, as well as Celtic roots musical group Runa, and singer-guitarist Charlie Zahm.
The real highlight, according to co-organizer Danny Hyland, is the grand opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m., which features all participating pipe bands marching in and playing together.
“It’s really impressive,” Hyland said. “It’s definitely something not to miss.”
Hyland, who was one of the original founders 16 years ago, said the event has grown immensely in popularity and participation since it first started, with bands and athletes traveling from across the country to attend and celebrate their Scottish roots.
“We used to get a few hundred, but now we draw a few thousand,” he said.
Hyland remembered attending a similar Scottish festival at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, the inspiration for his decision to organize a Rhode Island version.
“I remember talking to my friend at The Bean Counter, and saying that it was great, but so crowded you could hardly move,” he said. “And then she said, ‘Hey, why don’t we do one here?’”
After months of planning, Hyland said the only thing left is to hope for a good weather forecast.
“I’m crossing my fingers for sun,” he said.
The festival will be held rain or shine at Washington County Fairgrounds on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, and $5 for children 6 to 12, with free admission for those under 6.
For more information and the full schedule of events, visit riscot.org