ARCA’s Foxburg Scottish Festival is the town’s way of paying respect the area’s early settlers and the ancestors of many of today’s locals. It is one of the busiest celebrations of the year and attracts visitors from all over Western Pennsylvania and beyond. Those who attend are rewarded with an astonishing array of activities and demonstrations. Traditional Scottish games like Caber Toss and Stone Put are played, border collies display their instinctive herding skills, and dancers perform traditional Scottish routines, accompanied by a variety of other activities. Best of all, guest are never far from the sweet sound of the bagpipes.
Every year on the day before Foxburg Scottish Festival, a crowd gathers to begin the celebrations a day early. In the waning heat of an August evening, tourists and locals alike flock to the comfortable grassy nook nestled between the Foxburg Free Library and the Foxburg Wine Cellars for a Ceilidh, the Gaelic word for a social gathering centered around music, dance, and storytelling. There, they leisurely rest on the grass while listening to Scottish music and stories in anticipation for the next day’s events.
A bagpiper dressed in formal Scottish attire complete with a kilt and sporran welcomes visitors to Foxburg’s annual Scottish Festival. The warm sound produced by his expertly-played bagpipes gives guests their first taste of today’s cultural treat, causing them to yearn for more immersion into the highland way of life. The ancient melodies sail through the air, sending the heart of anyone, Scottish or otherwise, to their temporary homeland of Scotland. Listeners stand spread out over the green fields of the beautiful RiverStone Estate, the home of the festival. A variety of individuals fill the crowd. Some are clothed in their families’ tartans, proudly displaying their heritage; others have not a drop of Scottish blood in them, but still enthusiastically celebrate the Scottish culture.
Burly men struggle under the weight and size of knurly tree trunks as they attempt to heft the lengthy logs directly in front of them for the Caber Toss as part of the traditional Scottish games. Not wanting to be outdone, others showcase their strength by hurling large stones across an expansive field, a sport known as the Stone Put.
Animal lovers flock to a lush surrounded by a roughly hewn wooden fence. There, they watch in awe as border collies demonstrate their innate ability to gather scattered herds of sheep. The shrill whistles of the border collies’ masters pierce the air. Instinctively, the border collies’ ears perk up, and they recognize their task at hand. Hair on end, the collies stare the gaggle of sheep into submission and lead them towards their owner with a gentle trot and the occasional nip of the heels.
Children leap up and down in a misshapen semi-circle around a flute playing Scotsman with a twinkle in his eye. With enthusiasm, he parts from his wooden instrument and teaches the youngsters the words to little tune he learned as a child in Scotland. Together, they sing, while giggles escape from the children’s lips due to the silly nature of the songs. However, this expert entertainer is more than just a singer. The children sit down as he pulls a drawing board out of a corner. Wide eyed, the kids watch as the singer turned storyteller explains his tale about Scotland’s most terrifying beast, the Loch Ness Monster. The children are bursting with laughter by the end of this narrative, and several adults sheepishly stand up after being sucked in to the children’s area by this captivating story.
Many festival goers congregate near an outdoor stage that hosts artists of Scottish song and dance. Some members of the crowd dance or clap along with the lively melodies that spring from crisp sounding fiddles backed up by deep, full drums. Other musicians captivate their audience with beautiful old fashioned ballads and traditional Scottish folk songs, some of which have been specially tailored by the musician s for this very performance. However, for some, the spectacle that holds the most amazement is the elegant performers who execute traditional highland dances with a flair. Feet flying and dressed in their finest kilts and ghillies, they effortlessly sail through routines that have been standard Scottish entertainment for generations.
Organizers and participants of ARCA’s Foxburg Scottish Festival gladly welcome everyone to the celebration, for an enriching cultural experience that will stay with them for many many years.