My dad used to say bagpipes sounded like “a squashed duck.” It was one of the few things we disagreed on. I’m in love with the instrument, which is most commonly associated with Scotland. (No, I don’t play it – I just enjoy listening.)
As we get ready to welcome the annual Arkansas Scottish Festival to Batesville this weekend, I’ve had some of the traditional bagpipe melodies running through my head.
My second-favorite part of the festival is the Parade of Clans and Bands, which happens at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the courtyard of the Lyon College campus. During this time, festivalgoers gather to watch all the pipe bands march in together, playing as one.
I have “Scotland the Brave” coursing through my brain even as I write.
The festival is one way Lyon showcases its Scottish heritage. Folks come from all over the world to celebrate Scotland.
Oh, the kilts.
As I think about the part of the festival that’s long been my favorite, I get a bit melancholy.
Alex Beaton, whose music was a popular part of the festival for many years, was paralyzed in an accident in 2011 and is no longer able to travel to the festival. You can read more at Alex’s website.
Even though he won’t be there, he’s a part of the festival’s history and I want to share a little bit of him with you.
Alex is a storyteller and has entertained crowds all over the world with his beautiful Scottish ballads, but his sense of humor also comes through in songs such as The Scotsman. This clip from another festival contains that song, along with “Mary Mack” and a song I’m not familiar with (“Come Along,” perhaps?).
We miss Alex and wish him the best. Say prayers for Alex and his wife, Linda. He recently endured a five-month hospital stay and seems to have continuing health challenges. (I know a bit about that, as I had a cousin who was a quadriplegic. There always seemed to be something to deal with.)
Here’s another clip where his personality shines through, and it also contains another favorite sad song of mine: “The Massacre of Glencoe.” I hope you enjoy Alex as much as I do.
But bagpipes and balladeers aren’t the only things you’ll enjoy at the Arkansas Scottish Festival. Besides food, traditional music and a British car show, there are dogs! …
Sheep dog demonstrations – another favorite part of the fun. You just need to go and watch.
… and there are contests – bonniest knees, dance, piping competition, caber toss – a feast & ceilidh, a Sunday morning church service outdoors, a book sale and much more.
This year they’ve added a Highland Adventure Race, which I would totally do if I weren’t a wimp (people, I would turn myself over in the kayak and drown). But it sounds like so much fun! (Can someone please explain the Asparagus Toss to me? Please don’t tell me it has to do with “losing your lunch”).
There just isn’t room to list all the fun, so you’ll have to go see for yourself (or click here to download the schedule and map). Take your dogs; they’ll love it too.
And did I mention that admission is FREE?
Arkansas Scottish Festival and highland games
2300 Highland Rd.
Batesville, AR 72501
Tomorrow: I is for “Intentional Walk,” a book review.
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