Scottish Fest, Highland Games planned June 15

Yakima Herald-RepublicJune 13, 2013 

So I ask Ellen Bentley, the chairwoman of the Prosser Scottish Fest, happening June 15, just what it is about her event that each year draws hundreds of people, many of whom aren’t even Scottish, to a little Lower Valley town known mostly for wine and high school football.

“Men in kilts,” she replies.

I laugh.

“No seriously,” she says.

And, given that one of the daylong event’s annual highlights is its Bonny Knees Contest, in which the bekilted have their legs judged by blindfolded women, she’s probably right. There is something appealing about men in kilts, but that’s not all of it.

“Everyone is enamored with Ireland and Scotland,” Bentley says. “Look at the movie Brave last year. I personally think it’s because the culture has been in this country so long in so many forms. It’s a pretty accessible cultural experience — unless you hate bagpipes.”

There will be bagpipes Saturday, of course. In fact, the Portland Metro Pipe Band, which is among the finest in the Northwest, having competed and scored well at pipe band competitions worldwide, is scheduled to play two sets during the festival. And the Desert Thistle Pipe Band out of the Tri-Cities will be back for its 13th year at the event.

Though she is a fan herself, Bentley recognizes that bagpipes aren’t for everyone. (“Pipe bands, you either love them or hate them,” she says.) And for those who hate them, there are plenty of other musical acts set to play the Prosser Scottish Fest:

  • The Blarney Cats, an acoustic Celtic band out of Walla Walla, are new this year.
  • So is the father-daughter duo of Jesse Burgess on guitar and Anna Burgess on fiddle. The latter is classically trained but fell in love with Scottish fiddling after seeing Alasdair Fraser perform a few years ago.
  • The Three Rivers Dulcimer Society of the Tri-Cities returns with its Appalachian-flavored Scottish and Celtic music.
  • Tri-Cities acoustic Celtic band Skweez the Weezle returns as well, joining the Desert Thistle Pipe Band in having the distinction of playing all 13 Prosser Scottish Fests to date.

In addition to the music (and the kilts), the festival features food vendors with lamburgers, meat pies, sausage and Scotch eggs, and a Highland Market with Scottish and Celtic music CDs, bath and body products, jewelry, clan memorabilia, musical instruments and other Scottish goods. Then there are the Highland Games, including the caber toss and hammer throw. And there’s the family-friendly sheep-shearing and craft demonstrations. There’s even a children’s play area called Wee Scotland.

For grownups, there’s beer and wine at the Flying Anvil Pub. And of course, there’s that pub’s namesake, the famous anvil launch, during which a full-size and very heavy anvil is blown into the sky using an obscene amount of gunpowder.

There are Scottish festivals throughout the Northwest all summer long, but that combination of attractions sets Prosser’s apart, Bentley says.

“Everyone here in the Northwest has their own special spin and their own traditions they do,” she says. “Some are known for pipe bands, others for the musicians they get. Our special little spin is we pack a big punch for one day. And we blow stuff up and drink a lot of beer.”

That formula seems to be working. The festival drew 1,300 people last year, a record. And Bentley expects similar numbers this year, not counting the 100 to 200 volunteers, athletes, musicians and vendors.

IF YOU GO

The annual Scottish Fest and Highland Games is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 15 at the Prosser Wine & Food Park on Wine Country Road off Interstate 82.

General admission is $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and kids ages 5 to 12. Kids 4 and younger are free.

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