For 57 years, thousands of Arizonan Scotsmen and women have gathered in the metro area to celebrate their culture and heritage.
They’ll be doing it again next week when the Phoenix Scottish Games are presented by Caledonian Society of Arizona at Gilbert Regional Park, 3005 E. Queen Creek Road, Gilbert.
The games, which were moved to Gilbert Regional Park from Phoenix’s Steele Indian School Park, begin at 5 p.m. Friday, March 3, and run through Sunday, March 5.
You don’t have to be Scottish to join the fun – and if you’re not sure of your roots, there are genealogists on site who can help trace them.
The weekend opens Friday evening with a colorful and stirring presentation called the Phoenix International Tattoo, a dazzling display of music and marches that echo the pageantry of the Scotland’s famed pipe band competitions.
This year, 28 members of the Isle of Skye Pipe Band from the city of Portree are flying into perform – some leaving their homes to travel abroad for the first time in their lives.
They will join an international cast of over 100 performers who include MarineSandpiper, Southern California’s only rock and roll bagpiper, and Craic in the Stone, who update traditional Scottish music with the sounds of the Pogues, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and other contemporary groups.
That performance will be followed by the ore traditional military tattoo, featuring performers from the United States, Canada and Scotland.
Aklso participating in both Friday even shows are the Alma College Kiltie Dancers, Arizona Academy of Highland Dance, Jason Cartmell’s Rockstrocity and the Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band.
One of the most notable guests at the tattoo will be Alex Aghajanian, president of the Tournament of Roses Parade. His visit kicks off the Pipes on Parade project that will perform in the 2024 parade featuring many pipers and drummers from Arizona.
“This will be the largest pipe band in the history of the parade and already represents 12 countries,” said spokesman Darryl Toupkin.
Another guest is the Earl of Caithness, Malcolm Ian Sinclair, who is visiting from Scotland to preside over the Clan Sinclair family gathering at the games.
Performances run Friday from 7-8:45 p.m. but gates will open at 5 p.m. so guests can enjoy other entertainment and food.
Once the games themselves kick into high gear Saturday, there will be plenty of eye-popping action for young and old alike.
Men and women will be testing their strength in games like the Caber Toss, Sheaf Toss, Scottish Hammer Throw and Stone Put as well as wrestling.
Don’t like athletic competitions? No worries.
Also on the card all weekend is music, dancing and storytelling as 35 clans gather in small camps throughout the park to celebrate family reunions.
Entertainment includes the International Bagpipe Competition with at least six pipe bands, the Highland Dancing Competition and music by groups that include the Noble McCoy Band, Stoneybank, the Alma College Kiltie Highland Dancers and Jason Cartmell’s Rockstrocity.
Mary, Queen of Scots will be attending with her court and Toupkin said attendees can expect to see spontaneous parades thoughout the weekend.
Food will include meat pies and what Toupkin promises to be “the best fish n’ chips in the Valley.”
Thirsty attendees can check out the Locheil and Guinness beer gardens and whiskey and wine tasting booths. There will even be a cigar lounge on the premises.
Christopher Yate, an acrobat and stilt walker, will be entertaining and a British vintage car show will be offered.
Kilts and other Scottish apparel will be offered by some of the scores of vendors on the premises and there also will be plenty of kid-friendly activities such as a “fishing pond,” archery lessons, costumes, arts and crafts and others.
The event also is pet friendly and people are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket to enjoy the entertainment.
Proceeds from the games support scholarships for Highland athletes and entertainers and other activities of the Caledonian Society of Arizona, the largest Celtic organization in the state.
For information and tickets: phoenixscottishgames.com.