The Times West Virginian

May 1, 2014

Ancestry focus of Bridgeport event

Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering scheduled Saturday

By Chelsi Baker
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The sound of bagpipes and drums will fill the air at Bridgeport City Park this weekend during the 13th annual Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering.

The event is put on by the Scottish Heritage Society of North Central West Virginia, an organization based out of the Bridgeport/Clarksburg area comprised of 80-100 families.

“In our bylaws, one of the things that we do is try to inform the public about their Scottish and Celtic ancestry,” said Kevin Anderson, festival chairman. “So we started it 13 years ago to try to teach people in West Virginia that yes, you do have a Scottish and Celtic background, and all of this has grown out of that idea.”

The festival will feature a clan area with tents representing 20-25 of the original Scottish clans. Guests are invited to ask questions and learn about their genealogy, where they came from and the history of the Celtic nations.

This year, children will get a passport when they come through the front gates, and they can get it stamped at each tent to receive a prize for learning about their heritage.

“We’re not a bunch of people who drink scotch all day,” Anderson joked.

The festival is family friendly and features other events just for children, including games, a puppet show, spinning and weaving workshops, and a penny whistle lesson.

“They’re the next generation. Period.” said Anderson. “If we don’t take the time now to try to teach them who their grandparents were — how their grandparents got here or their great-grandparents got here — I don’t know that anybody is going to.”

Guests can also expect to see bagpiping and Scottish dancing competitions.

This year, the festival invited professional bagpipers to compete, and pipers came from as far as Arkansas to join the contest.

Pipe bands will parade to the center field and perform together at noon Saturday as part of the festival’s opening ceremonies.

“For someone who’s never been to our festival and is coming for the first time, they do want to make sure that they see the opening ceremony where all the bagpipe bands and everybody comes down in the parade,” Anderson said.

There will also be a Scottish breed dog exhibit, a herding demonstration and an agility competition, along with a Scottish-breed dogs costume and trick contest.

“It’s a different entity of the Scottish, where Scotland brought something to the United States,” said Anderson. “There are 13 breeds, and they were all originally from Scotland.”

The amateur heavy athletic competition will also run throughout the day, which features competitions like the hammer toss, the heavy- and light-weight distance throw and the caber toss.

A caber is a long piece of wood, usually between 18 and 24 feet long and weighing 140-200 pounds.

“The highland athletic games were designed a long time ago,” Anderson explained. “Two clans got together on a Sunday afternoon, and they decided to compete against each other. ... Everything is designed so that you can go find whatever you want to in the barn. Everything is designed after what went on 1,500 years ago in Scotland.”

The festival begins at Bridgeport City Park at 8 a.m. Saturday and runs until 5 p.m.

Tickets are $15 at the gate for adults or $12 in advance. Tickets for students ages 13-18 or seniors 65 and up are $10 at the gate or $10 in advance, and children 12 and under are free with a paying adult.

There is also a “Best in Scotland” concert at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Bridgeport High School auditorium after the festival.

Tickets for the concert are $10 at the door and $8 in advance.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.northcentralwestvirginiascottishfestival.com.

Email Chelsi Baker at cbaker@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.