ALTAMONT – Caber tossers, highland dancers and pipe bands return to Altamont this weekend for the Capital District Scottish Games.
Organized by the Schenectady Pipe Band, the games are a longstanding tradition in the area, bringing together Celtic music, highland athletics, kids’ activities and plenty of Scottish food.
Usually held each Labor Day weekend, in 2021, the games were reduced to one day rather than a weekend-long event and this year organizers are going with the same format, packing all the competitions and performances into Saturday.
“It worked out really well. We had great attendance last year,” said William Munro, one of the organizers.
Around 9,500 people came out to the games in 2021 and organizers say they’re on track to get as big a crowd on Saturday.
This year’s celebrations will mark the return of individual piping/drumming competitions.
“It’s an expensive thing for us to do and we weren’t sure what the crowd was going to be [last year]. But this year we’re back to doing individual competitions and we have one person who’s from Australia who’s going to be competing in the piping contest, so that’s great,” Munro said.
There are around 20 pipe bands from around the Northeast competing as well. They’ll all come together for a mass band performance at noon, following the parade of tartans and the opening ceremonies at the grandstand.
“The gates open at 8 and we do get a really big influx of people coming in so the traffic backs up quite a bit the closer you get to noon. We encourage everyone to get there early,” Munro said.
The piping and athletics competitions start early, shortly after the gates open.
One of the main athletic competitions is the caber throw, where competitors toss a large tapered pole so that it falls end over end and lands in a straight line from where it was thrown. The sheaf toss is another popular part of the highland games, which will include around 20 competitors this year.
Kids will also have a chance to test out their tossing skills too.
“At 2 o’clock we have some organized activities for them where we have kiddies throwing the caber,” Munro said.
It won’t be the traditional telephone pole-sized cabers that the pros will throw earlier in the day, but a small caber made of corrugated cardboard material.
“They have fun tossing them,” Munro said.
Throughout the day The Fitzgeralds and The McKrells are set to bring their take on Celtic music to the stage. The Brigadoons, a Canada-based band, will return to the festival in what’s become a four-decades-long tradition.
“This is our 44th year of putting the games on because we missed 2020, but they’ve been here for all 44 of those years and they’re just an awesome band,” Munro said. “They love coming here and we love having them.”
Headlining act Enter The Haggis is set to play at 7 p.m. The band, which is based in Toronto, combines bagpipes with fiddles and a rock rhythm section. It’s known for tunes such as “One Last Drink,” “Gasoline,” “Down With The Ship” and “Lancaster Gate.”
The day’s schedule also includes an event highlighting Scottish dog breeds, a petting zoo and birds of prey show, sheep dog demonstrations and more.
“You get a full day’s entertainment,” Munro said.
Capital District Scottish Games.
WHEN: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Altamont Fairgrounds
HOW MUCH: $24 for adults. Kids ages 12 and under get in for free.
MORE INFO: Scotgames.com