The Savannah Scottish Games returns on the grounds of Bethesda Academy for its 43rd year on May 4.
Neill McDonald, past president of the games, said the day is part family reunion and part three-ring circus.
“It’s a full day of fun,” McDonald said. “We have the heavy athletics competition that lasts all day with about six different events from the tossing of the caber; some people call the caber a telephone pole. And then there’s the sheaf toss, which is a real crowd pleaser where you take a pitchfork to toss a bag of straw.”
He says there are also Scottish Border Collie herding demonstrations with Bill Coburn (who McDonald describes as the “grandfather everyone would want for their children”) known for his gentle guidance to get the animals to follow his every direction.
McDonald says there are dozens of vendors with goods and foods, as well as the 2019 USIR Highland Dancing Southern Regional Championships, with the top three winners in each group at Savannah going on to compete at the National Championship.
There are also children’s activities where the kids get to sample the heavy athletics. The Society for Creative Anachronism will be on site in full costume and ready to entertain.
Bob Williams, this year’s president of the games, adds that no games event is complete without the cadence of piping and drums.
“We’ll have three pipe bands this year from Florida, one from Savannah and one from Charleston,” Williams explained. “And they also perform in one mass parade with the opening ceremonies, but people should note the opening ceremonies is not the beginning of the day because there will be lots of Scottish highland dancing before that.”
He added that there will also be a children’s area with fairies and storytellers that is always a crowd-favorite for the younger children.
There will be about 35 clan booths and exhibits this year, as well representing different Scottish clans.
“These families are most willing to tell about their clans and they are also hoping to find more people in their clans,” Williams said.
There is also a genealogy tent on clan row with information on Highland Scots, Lowland Scots, Ulster Scots, Irish, English, Manx, Welsh and Orkney.
When asked if the recent interest in DNA kits and finding family roots has had an impact on people showing up to the games to connect with clans, McDonald says he does see a renewed interest because of that science.
Williams added with a laugh that interest in the show “Highlander” has definitely helped draw interest to the games, as well.
Both agree the games is really a day for families and there is something for everyone.
“It’s just a marvelous day and the purpose has always been to impart knowledge of Scottish heritage,” McDonald said. “It takes a lot of volunteers to put this together, and we look forward to spending the day with our own families every year.”