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148th Scottish Games set for Pleasanton Aug. 31, Sept. 1
A bagpipe band at last years Scottish Games. - photo by Photo Contributed

PLEASANTON —   The 148th Scottish Highland Gathering & Games marks the 20th year that the world’s most complete event of its type has been held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. It was the Labor Day weekend on 1994 when the gates first opened to the stirring sound of hundreds of bagpipes and drums and the participants first looked at their new home after more than 30 years of presenting the Highland Games in Santa Rosa.

The Games have grown and prospered in the Tri-Valley area and return this Labor Day weekend with 28 pipe bands from  the U.S. and Canada plus a specially prepared performance by the nationally acclaimed LA Scots Grade I Pipe Band.

The best of the world’s heavy event athletes will be contesting the 39th U.S. Invitational Heavy Event Championships, including defending World Champion Matt Vincent of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In addition to U.S. soil, there are top professionals from Scotland, England and Canada, as well as the prime amateur men and women from a dozen states converging on the Pleasanton.

Tradition is instilled in the young ladies and gentlemen who will compete in the Western U.S. Open Highland Dancing Championship with dances that have withstood the test of time. The Earl of Errol, Highland Fling and venerable Sword Dance are among the competitors art.

Attending the Scottish Games in Pleasanton is also a time for decision. There are so many things to do and see. If live music is your choice, you have a number of choices to make with four stages of continuous music. Everything from a single balladeer to Celtic rock and roll groups  and everything in-between. This year will mark the first time that internationally-acclaimed Celtica, a rousing sensation in Europe, will make an appearance at the Pleasanton Games. Add Tempest, Albannach, Molly’s Revenge, The  Browne Sisters with George Cavanaugh, Golden Bough, Peter Daldry and Neil O’Neill, and you have four stages of outstanding musical entertainment!

A Fiddlers Rally and Celtic Harpers are part of the two stages that make up the Celtic Heritage area that also includes Scottish Country Dancing, and Scottish and Gaelic singing.

The list is long of “to do” items, including the Living History reenactments with Mary Queen of Scots, with the Highland Warriors and invading Vikings, the Glen of the Clans, Birds of Prey, Sheep Dog Trials and Highland Cattle.  For the youngsters there is the Children’s Glen. Soccer fans will love the Five-A-Side Soccer that pits eight semi-pro teams together over a two day tournament. There is also a rugby and shinty tournament. On display are a number of vintage British automobiles, and this year vintage British motorcycles will be displayed.

A very popular venue is the Irish Pavilion where the fast-paced Irish Step dancing demonstrations take place both days. This year, on Saturday, a special event will take place at the Irish Pavilion. Interlaced with the Irish dancing will be the “Wm Glen Kilted Fashion at the Games”, a fashion show, held three times during Saturday with professional models showing varied kilt fashions for men and women.

For those in a buying mood, five buildings with more than 100 vendors, selling imported goods from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, await you. Outdoors are the vendors of British foods such as meat pies, bangers, Scotch eggs and more, as well as the traditional American food.

Very popular is the “Whisky Live at the Games”, a venue where those of proper age can sample the very best of single malt Scotch whiskies and a selection of other spirits. A master class for aficionados is also offered. This is an extra charge venue.