Scottish Festival Draws Big Crowd At Old Westbury Gardens

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The 57th Annual Long Island Scottish Festival and Games held at Old Westbury Gardens last Saturday drew a large enthusiastic crowd as Long Island Scottish Clan MacDuff played host for the event.

Those in attendance were treated to a joint performance of four bagpipe bands, an open competition among adults and youngsters playing the unique sport of caber and the chance to taste Scottish culinary specialties, including haggis and shepherd’s pie. They were also able to learn to dance like Scottish highlanders.

Young drummer at rest (Photos by Rich Tedesco)

Andrew McInnes, committee chairman of the Long Island Scottish Festival and Games, said he got involved with planning the event in the 1980s because of the enduring influence of his Scottish mother. He said the festival, which was first held at the Plattdeutsche Restaurant in Franklin Square in 1958, has steadily drawn more participants and people attending the event over its past 40 years at the Old Westbury Gardens.

“Here it’s grown,” McInnes said. “At first, it was a few pipers and adult games.”

Now, McInnes said there are games for kids, including sack races, a tug of war and tossing the caber, a tall wooden log, “to give them a taste of Scottish sports.”

He said the 93 kids who participated in this year’s tug of war, compared to 65 kids in last year’s competition, was an indication in the festival’s year-to-year growth.

The festival drew approximately 6,000 people last year and McInnes estimated it drew 7,000 people on Saturday, Aug. 26. For McInnes, the growth of the festival and games celebrating Scottish heritage is a particular point of pride.

“Both of my parents are from Scotland, came here in the ‘20s and met at a clan dance,” he said.

Piper from the New York Caldonian Band

The big midday event at the day-long festival featured several bagpipe bands marching on the great lawn in front of the John Phipps mansion on the Old Westbury Gardens grounds. The Gordon Highlanders of Locust Valley, the Northport Pipe and Drum Band, the Amityville Highlander Park Pipe Band of American Legion Post 1066 in Massapequa and the New York Caldonian Group Pipe Band from New York City strutted their stuff up and down the great lawn. An honor guard composed of members of Inisfada of Mineola and Vietnam Veterans of America led the bagpipers parade.

Sean Lynch, a 10-year veteran of the American Legion band, said the camaraderie is what he enjoys most about playing in the bagpipe band.

American Legion band pipe major T.J. White, a seven-year veteran of the band, said, “I love everything about it. I still get goosebumps when we play.”

McInnes and other officials spoke during an interval in the bands’ performance. Marcus Tillery, pastor of the East Williston Community Church, offered an invocation, saying, “We gather here today in the name of all that’s Scottish. Bless these games and the harmony here and we pray that it spreads throughout the nation.”

The caber toss

The caber toss followed the bagpipe band parade, with the adult competition drawing an enthusiastic crowd that cheered the efforts of all those who attempted to “toss” the caber, a large pole normally 19 feet and 6 inches long, weighing 175 pounds. Spectators thoroughly enjoyed watching the competitors who successfully hurled the pole end over end.

Long Island Scottish Festival and Games Corporation is organized for educational and charitable purposes. The event also included an antique British auto show, a falconry and birds of prey showcase, a petting zoo and pony rides.

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Richard Tedesco is a reporter with Anton Media Group.

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