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Ohio Scottish Games and Celtic Festival

Scottish American Society



The Ohio Scottish Games were held at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea on June 24-25, for the first time in this location. My husband Bill Kennedy hosted the Kennedy Family Society clan tent, and assisted the Scottish Cultural Garden Association with their information table. (This is a newly-formed group created to establish a Scottish presence in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, a 256-acre park containing over 30 gardens honoring different ethnicities and nationalities.)

[Note that as the clan village is our personal focus, I cannot relate an account of the Games from the point of view of a piper, dancer, or athlete.] We arrived on Friday afternoon to set up, but other obligations unfortunately prevented us from attending the torchlight Calling of the Clans ceremony on Friday evening, and the concert which followed, but we heard from others that these events went well. The building where the clans are located was easy to access, and was clean, airy (with big ceiling fans) and well-lit. Being out of the hot sun and not having to worry about weather made the experience of setup/breakdown and hosting to be painless. We are pleased with the new location because of the many hotels nearby, and having a Lowes, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart just minutes away. Clan tents need quantities of food, water, and duct tape.

The clans were arranged inside the building; with a small stage and seating area in the center, and the back wall open to the field where athletic events were held. Restrooms were nearby across the midway. I did not notice where accessible toilets were located, but as we had a number of hosts and visitors using scooters/motorized chairs, placing one next to the clan village building would be very practical.

Throughout the day on Saturday, an alternating schedule of entertainment took place on our stage; of Scottish Country Dancing and The Andrew MacManus trio of musicians. These performances brought people into the building and kept them longer than they might have stayed otherwise, and the seating area gave the visitors a place to rest. At times the music was a little too loud for people to converse. We hope a balance can be found between the entertainers and the clan village, as the reason family societies attend is to speak with visitors, who have many questions about Scotland and genealogy.

Visitors to the games make a personal connection to Scottish culture by speaking with us, something that is less likely to happen while shopping, eating, or passively observing events. There was reported to be a genealogist in the building connected to ours, but there was no signage. The clan village would welcome a genealogy table close at hand, to which we can refer visitors. We found that among general inquiries, people were most interested in looking for their family tartan, and studying a detailed map of Scotland. Their desire to connect to family and place is intense, and while clan tents provide details of one family, there is a need for more general information about Scotland, perhaps hosted in conjunction with a travel agency that specializes in tours. It would also be advantageous for any of our cultural groups (pipers, dancers, athletes) to host an information/recruiting table in the clan village area, where interested visitors can speak with a representative about these activities.

We spoke to hundreds of visitors. Margaret Frost loaned us her large banner of tartan swatches, which drew great interest, causing us to have to rehang it where groups of passersby could gather close to examine the patterns. Nearby exhibitors complained that the banner was drawing attention away from them. Of course among a mere 60 or so tartans, the chance of finding ones family tartan is slim, so we referred many people to the kilt vendors and their voluminous swatch books.

We met Chuck Cashin, who hosted an exhibit for the Isle of Man; a welcome addition to the clan village, particularly considering the historic community of Manx emigrants in the Cleveland area. His bold red and white triskele flag and a large map of the island attracted visitors, these being complemented by photographs of island landmarks, and a poster of the Bee Gees, who are possibly the islands most renowned export after herring.

We had many new visitors to the Kennedy tent, and old friends and Kennedy family members including Cynde and John Kennedy-Snodgrass, Phillis Steinbach, Doug Rutherford, Erin and Scott Boyce, and Bill Kennedys son Reid and his friend Abby Takacs. The lineup for the noontime parade of bands and clans was thankfully brief. This year the groups of clans were interspersed with pipe bands, which made for a very grand procession down the midway and past the grandstand, one which was appreciated by the cheering observers who lined the route. We had 23 clans in attendance, not as many as in years past, but a number that is sure to increase as people hear of the ease of setting up.

Early in the day and later in the afternoon we had a chance to take a stroll around the fairgrounds. All musicians were under cover, with ample seating for listeners. Usually two or three different musical groups could be heard at any time. As the event now encompasses other Celtic heritages, the music was Scottish, Irish, and Celtic, as were the food and goods vendors. Our old favorites Camerons and Welsh cookies were there, and an Irish restaurant provided the fish and chips. There were Scottish sheepdogs and Irish wolfhounds. Vendors offered Irish t-shirts and ready-to-wear kilts, jewelry of all kinds, leather goods, books, and craft kits. I greatly admired the air-conditioned building where the harp competition and performances were held. The Society for Creative Anachronism provided a welcome display of everyday life in times pastand hosted a charming medieval/renaissance musical ensemble.

The Games committee did a terrific job of signage, there was never a doubt as to where events were taking place, and the layout of the fairgrounds is easy to navigate. The weather was fine, and many people attended, keeping us occupied all day and pleasing the vendors. We look forward to attending the games in this venue in years to come.

Julie Kennedy