Eagle River to host 31st Annual Highland Games


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Members of the various pipes and drums bands play during the opening ceremoies of the 2011 Alaska Scottish Highland Games and Gathering of the Clans on Saturday, June 25, 2011 at the Eagle River Lions Community Park in Eagle River. This year’s festival will be held Saturday, June 30.

MATT TUNSETH

There will be kilts, cabers and bagpipes aplenty this weekend when Eagle River hosts the Alaska Scottish Highland Games on Saturday, June 30 at Lions Park.

Eighth-year Highland Games chair Chris Anderson is hoping to improve upon last year’s attendance of 4,500 people. Should Mother Nature cooperate, Anderson’s optimistic more than 5,000 will take part in the 31st annual Scottish celebration.

“We’re just hoping for good weather,” she said.

Turnout isn’t the only aspect of the event on the rise.

“The games are growing,” Anderson said. “We’re adding new things all the time.”

This year, the post-games finale concert will feature music from two foreign bands, Albannach, of Scotland, and Brother, of Australia, starting at 7 p.m.

“This is the first year we’ve had two Celtic rock bands,” Anderson said.

Making a return from debuting last year, the Scotch tasting tent is back. For $30, those 21 and older can sample three blends from 1 to 6 p.m.

Tickets, which can be purchased at Celtic Treasures in Anchorage prior to the event, include a souvenir glass.

Last year, about 450 people passed through the Scotch tasting tent, Anderson said.

Also returning for the second year is “Piping Idol,” a competition where pipers show off their talent on stage — performing any genre they want — and the audience selects the winner. The event, which begins at 10 a.m., was a huge success last year, Anderson said.

“The crowd loved it,” she said.

And, of course, athletes will compete in traditional games, which include caber, stone, weight and hammer tosses. Six professional athletes from all over the country will be competing this year, Anderson said.

The day will also feature a tug-of-war competition and there will be plenty of Scottish fare to sample.

Anderson, who was raised in Scottish traditions, looks forward to the games every year.

“It’s part of who I am,” she said. “It gets me back to what my grandparents taught me.”

It’s also a chance to let others walk in a Scot’s shoes for a day, Anderson said.

“It’s fun to share our culture and show it to other people,” she said.

Gates open at 8 a.m. with registration for those participating in athletic and music events. Vendor booths and athletic events begin at 9 a.m., and opening ceremonies start at 11:30 a.m. 

Tickets can be purchased in advance for $12.50 for adults and $4 for children (5-to 16-years-old) at The Book Shelf in Eagle River and Celtic Treasures in Anchorage. At the gate, tickets cost $15 for adults and $5 for children.

For more information, visit www.alaskascottish.org/games.html.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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