PLEASANTON — Only in Pleasanton, a sight seen and heard nowhere else in the world, a U.S. military band and world renowned pipe band interacting together in marching formation and spirited musical presentations.
It takes place at the 147th Scottish Highland Gathering & Games on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 1-2 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The U.S. Marine Band San Diego and the L.A. Scots Grade I Pipe Band, appear together side-by-side, during the daily Massed Bands presentation that will include the 30 competing pipe bands from the U.S. and Canada. In addition, the 30 pipe bands compete throughout the day in Grade 2, 3, 4 and 5 competition as do the U.S. Drum Major Championships.
This grand finale begins both days at 4:15 p.m. on the track in front of the main grandstands, concluding a day of world championship heavy event athletics, highland dancing, living history reenactments, continuous entertainment of traditional and Celtic Rock on six stages, a Scottish Fiddlers Rally, Celtic Harpers and Living History with Mary Queen of Scots and her traveling entourage, highland warriors and invading Vikings.
The world championship heavy event athletics include the top professionals from the U.S., Canada, Britain and Europe competing for the world title in the weight-for-height and caber. The 38th U.S. Invitational Championships include the pros, amateur men’s, women’s and masters classes in all eight athletic disciplines.
Do you think you may have a bit of Scottish in you? You can find out among the nearly 100 clans represented in the Gathering of the Clans, or if it’s the Irish in you, enjoy Irish Step Dancing in the Irish Pavilion. Birds of prey with expert handlers and their falcons, hawks, owls and other exotic birds are a popular stop as are the sheep dog trails. Speed and agility is part of the Five-A-Side Soccer tournament with eight teams from Northern California and Nevada, plus Rugby and the ancient Scottish Shinty tournaments.
For the wee ones there is the Children’s Glen with games and prizes. Always an abundance of British foods such as steak pies, bangers, shepards pie, scotch eggs, haggis, pasties and Celtic rolls, and of course, ales. And, back by popular demand, Whisky Live at the Games, where, for an additional fee, one can sample the finer single malts from Scotland and learn the finer points of the art of fine distilling from a “Master”.
The gathering and games open at 8 a.m. both days with the heavy event athletics beginning at 8:30 a.m. All other venues begin at 10 a.m. Closing time is 6:30 p.m.
The games are proceeded on Friday evening with a concert at the host hotel, the Marriott San Ramon, at 8p.m. ($12). A Ceilidh (Scottish party) is held Saturday evening at the Red Lion Pub on the fairgrounds from 6:30 to 10 p.m. The party is free. The BBQ dinner, not required, is $18 for adults. The Ceilidh is hosted by New Zealand’s renowned entertainer Steve McDonald and Neil O’Neill with appearances by the U.S. Marine Band and the L.A. Scots Pipe Band. Both events are open to the public.