Capital District Scottish Games reduced to one day but with few changes

The Schenectady Pipe Band performs at the 2019 Scottish Games that were held at the Altamont Fairgrounds. 

The Schenectady Pipe Band performs at the 2019 Scottish Games that were held at the Altamont Fairgrounds. 

The games will be afoot at the Altamont Fairgrounds on Saturday.

It’s the 44th year for the Capital District Scottish Games, hosted by the Schenectady Pipe Band. The games, which feature live music, dancing and competitions, will run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Traditionally, the event is held over an entire weekend but because of the pandemic, organizers decided to host it only on Saturday, and cut down on some of the individual competitions. However, there will still be plenty of Celtic music, dancing, caber tossing and other traditions throughout the day.

“We still have the band competition and we still have all the stage bands,” said William Munro, an organizer and longtime Schenectady Pipe Band member. “We’ll have highland dancing exhibitions. The athletic competitions will take place, [including] the caber toss and the sheaf toss. . . So it’s going to look very much like the games do every year.”

Munro has been a member of the band for 54 years.

“My grandfather came from Scotland and he played bagpipes. He died when I was 7 but I really loved him and loved listening to him play bagpipes. So that got me into learning how to play them,” Munro said.

The instrument, which has nine notes, takes practice and patience to learn to play well.

“It’s a relatively simple instrument but because you blow air into it and it blows constantly, there’s no pause in music so we use a lot of embellishments between notes and those embellishments take a while to learn. Then it also takes a while to get the physical dexterity of being able to blow the bagpipe, keep it steady and pressure on the bag, which forces the air to go through all the reeds,” Munro said.

There’s a vibrant bagpipe community in the Capital Region and it’s part of the reason why Munro helped to start the Capital District Scottish Games in 1978. Organizers wanted to host high-level competitions for area bands, and those outside of the area as well.

“The first year we did it, I think our budget was like $14,000 and we figured if we got bad weather and we lost [money] then we’d be marching for the next three years trying to pay off whatever we had to spend but we were fortunate to have really good weather for the first two or three years, which gave us a good jumpstart,” Munro said.

Since then, it’s continued to grow and in years past, upwards of 46 bands have come from as far as Texas and Scotland to compete. They’ve also added more and more programming over the years.

“We’re able to do a lot of things that we wanted to do and we’re very happy with the outcome now,” Munro said.

One of the traditions they’ve had to adapt this year is the mass pipe band performance, where all the bands featured come together to play.
“. . . because of the virus we decided that that’s probably not a good thing to do to have all these pipes next to each other playing. So we’re going to have a march pass instead of a mass band but that’ll be pretty exciting too,” Munro said.

That’ll take place at noon at the grandstand. There will also be performances by bands like The McKrells and The Brigadoons throughout the day. Highland athletics competitions begin at 9 a.m. and highland dancing will be featured throughout the day, from An Clár School of Irish Dance and The Braemar Highland Dancers and the Boland Irish Dance School, among others.

There’s also a Scottish kids zone and competitions for young athletes.

The Capital District Scottish Games will take place at the Altamont Fairgrounds. General admission tickets are $18 and up in advance and $22 at the gate. Children ages 12 and under can enter for free. For more information visit

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts


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