Highland Games brings Celtic culture to Langley this year

Oh! Ye’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road, to the 12th annual Whidbey Island Highland Games.

Oh! Ye’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road, to the 12th annual Whidbey Island Highland Games.

Both roads, of course, lead to Langley. The grounds at the middle school will play host to this year’s games, coming Saturday, Aug. 14.

Even with the move, the festival is sticking to tradition. There will be a piping and drumming competition, athletics, highland dancing and music to entertain the crowd.

Stephanie Sprinkle, event chairwoman, said there will be fun entertainment including historical reenactments, the Cascade Comet group of performing dogs, and three groups playing genuine Scottish music.

“It’s a whole new experience this year,” Sprinkle said.

The Highland Games’ new location is the result of a scheduling mix-up, Sprinkle said, but the city of Langley and the South Whidbey School District were very helpful in making it happen at the school.

“With the new location, the parking will be better and there’s certain advantages we didn’t have before at Greenbank Farm,” Sprinkle said.

“[The South End school] will be great for our off-island attendees to come to, but a little harder for our Oak Harbor people,” she said.

Other interesting things festival goers can enjoy include booths filled with traditional Scottish clothing and collectables available for purchase. There will be a booth with information about Scottish clans and surnames where all wondering can stop when one finds their family crest and history, with the help of the booth’s volunteers.

Food vendors will serve authentic Scottish dishes along with other festival fare. Brave folks can try some haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs), or go the easy route and taste the sweet desserts of the Scots.

Perhaps the most exciting sights to see will be the actual games themselves, including the caber toss in which an athlete throws a long and large log to see how far it will go; the weight throw, where the competitor spins around, gaining speed, to eventually release a heavy weight for distance; and the stone put, which is much like the track and field sport of the same name, but without the rock.

These dangerous and hefty sports are long-time practices of the Scottish Highland Games, which have an untraceable history due to a lengthy lineage. But trained professionals make a great show at the Highland Games, with massive strength and the uniqueness of each sport.

Bagpipes and kilts will be the style of the day, creating a truly authentic atmosphere similar to the original games of yore. Just a caber toss away, visitors can sway to the haunting sounds of harp and violin music while tasting the delicacies of a black pudding vendor.

The games will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 for adults; $30 for groups of four; $6 for seniors, military or students 5 to 18; and free for children 4 and younger. No pets are allowed.