Scottish Festival comes to South Florida

As tradition calls for it, burly male competitors will be on hand to throw large, heavy wooden poles as far as 20 feet.

But it’s not just the athletics that will keep fans of Southeast Florida’s 30th annual Scottish Festival entertained. Expect to hear Charlie Zahm’s Celtic music, Albannach band playing drums and blowing bagpipes, and see men wearing kilts of their clan. “It’s very important for the people to know that the Scottish culture in this community is not exclusive,” said Nigel MacDonald, one of the founders of the festival. “It’s for everyone — the music, dancing and piping is enjoyed by everyone.”

More than 4,000 are expected to fill Fort Lauderdale’s Snyder Park for the event, which began three years ago in Key Biscayne.

“In Scotland there are games like this in every town, but we didn’t have any here and we had to go to other games in Orlando, Atlanta or the Carolinas,” said MacDonald.

Steve Rogers of Plantation hasn’t missed a festival in 12 years. He fell in love with the culture and even learned to play bagpipes.

“At first I wasn’t involved, but after going a couple of times, I learned to play the bagpipes,” said Rogers, whose wife also got involved by playing the drums. “It turned out to be a very good decision. I participate in a lot of things that normally I wouldn’t be able to do.”

Among the activities that caught his attention was the caber toss, a traditional event in which men throw a wooden pole that’s almost 20 feet long and weighs about 175 pounds. Men also compete in age-old events such as the hammer throw and shot put.

These events come from the Highland games that are held throughout the year in Scotland and other countries as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic heritage.

Plenty of Scottish merchandise and food and drink will be on sale, including Scotch eggs, (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried); sticky toffee, (moist sponge cake made with finely chopped prunes); clootie dumplings, (a pudding of breadcrumbs, dried fruit and spice) and of course, Scottish beer.

Although there is no dress code, many men will wear kilts with their clan’s tartan. Scottish clans and societies will also set up displays to welcome members and educate people about their roots.

“There are the MacDonalds, the Campbells, the Ritchies and others,” said MacDonald. “We have all these families and set up tents where people who are associated, or not associated, can learn about our heritage.”