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Scottish Highland Games Return to Ligonier

Sandra Cole of Indiana, PA

Break out the bagpipes and dust off that kilt because the Ligonier Highland Games are back this weekend, celebrating Celtic culture for a 56th year.

The festivities start Saturday morning at Idlewild Park with dancing, drumming, harping and piping contests, along with a Scottish-breed dog show.

The Heavy Athletics begin at 9 a.m. where the region’s biggest and baddest compete in events such as the caber toss, where contestants throw what looks like a telephone pole end-over end through the air. Athletes will also participate in the hammer throw and sheaf toss, where a 16 to 20 lbs. bundle of straw is launched into the air with a pitchfork.

Richard Wonderly, executive director of the games, said the athletics were originally used hundreds of years ago to prevent confrontation between Celtic clans.

“By getting together to show off your feats of strength, it helped to intimidate the other clans to avoid combat,” he said. “So basically, it was a way to say, ‘Here’s our guys, look how big and strong they are. Maybe you don’t want to mess with us.’”

Wonderly said the Celtic culture has been able to survive through family tradition.

“From dancers handing it down to their children who pass it on to their grandchildren, these are things that help to spread the culture and language,” he said.

Not to mention the bagpipes.

“That’s something that really sticks out,” Wonderly said. “When you think of Scotland, you think of the bagpipe.”

Admission to the games is $20 for adults, $10 for those 13-17 and children 12 and under are free.

A portion of the funds generated goes toward the scholarship funds of the Clan Donald Education and Charitable Trust.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."
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