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144th Scottish Gathering & Games

Family entertainment part of Labor Day weekend event

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144th Scottish Gathering & Games

Ryan Vierra throws the 26.6-pound stone putt.

Photo contributed/


POSTED August 29, 2009 2:10 a.m.
PLEASANTON — You needn’t incur the high expenditures of going to London to see the pomp and ceremony of the famous Pipes & Drums - 1st Battalion Scots Guards parading at Buckingham Palace.

The world famous pipe band will be in Pleasanton on September 5 and 6 to take part in the 144th edition of the world’s largest Scottish Highland Gathering & Games at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.

 Created in 1642 when King Charles I commissioned the Marquis of Argyll to raise a regiment of personal guards in Scotland. The regimental band continues today, steeped in history, as both a pipe band and as highly trained soldiers.

These soldier-musicians will share the limelight both days during the Massed Bands Closing Ceremonies in front of the grandstands with the 45-piece U.S. Marine Band San Diego. Both bands will perform individually, then together in one of the world’s only integrated performances by military bands from Scotland and America.

Add to this 28 competition pipe bands from the U.S. and Canada marching onto the front straightaway of the track and you have one of the most spectacular musical performances in the U.S., roughly 800 pipers and drummers!

Of course the military and competition bands are but one of the many facets of these storied Games.

The 35th U.S. Invitational Heavy Events Championship, plus the World Celtic Hammer Championship, brings the strongest and best athletes in the world in the professional division, including 2008 World Champion Sean Betz of Omaha, NE, seven-time World Champ Ryan Vierra of Stevenson, CA and All American Champion Harrison Bailey III of Easton, PA. British Champion Scott Rider, who missed last year because of appendicitis, will make his first appearance at Pleasanton.

The Western U.S. Highland Dancing Championship brings together competitors in five age groups from throughout California.

And the list goes on of things to do and see at the Scottish Highland Gathering & Games. Six stages of continuous musical entertainment,  from traditional to heart-pounding Celtic Rock. Among the groups is Tempest, Wicked Tinker and Molly’s Revenge in the Celtic rock venue with the harmony of the Browne Sister and Golden Bough among the traditionalists. Also featured is Scotland’s Isla St. Clair. Other stages present Scottish country dancing, fiddlers and harpers.

One of the nation’s largest gathering of clans holds a fascination for many.

Living History takes you back in time with Mary Queen of Scots and her entourage. The fierce highland warriors, the Roman Legions occupying forces and the invading Vikings portray a captivating panorama.

The fascinating Birds of Prey with over 25 hawks, falcons, owls and other flying predators presented by their handlers. The sheepdog trials showcases the abilities of the dog and its handler herding sheep. the big and stately Clydesdale horses are a marked contrast to the miniature highland cattle.

The Children’s Glen is always popular for the wee ones. And for the adults, there is the whisky tasting venue and seminars on the finer points of the single malt spirits.

Five-A-Side soccer, Rugby and the ancient Scottish sport of Shinty add to the agenda. On display are a number of British motor cars.

British and American food and drink is available throughout the fairgrounds and at the Red Lion Pub.

The gates open both days at 9 a.m. Following the 6:30 p.m. closure Saturday the Red Lion Pub will host a Ceilidh (Scottish party) with open microphone and a barbecue dinner.

One day adult admission is $17, 2-day is $25. Single day youth 8-16, seniors 65-plus and handicapped are $10. Under 8 is free, as is the military when showing and active duty ID.

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