Of haggis, hairy legs, and plaid

Festivals such as the Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games have always seemed like a Cliff's Notes version of history. For the most part, heritage festivals are just an excuse to get dressed up in a silly costume and drink heavily. Many years of culture are crammed into a few days of activities and served with a turkey leg. It's one thing for people to respect their roots; it's another to see a guy whose last name is Romanowski parade around in a kilt. There are a few people who come to learn something about their ancestry, but you probably won't run into them at the beer tent.

At least the Texas Scottish Festival encourages people to dig into their pasts. For 11 years, one of the highlights of the festival has been the colorful tents representing various Scottish clans and families. The tents give people a chance to learn more about their ancestors and history, part of which involves bloody rivalries between clans. Those rivalries are re-enacted at the festival through pranks like stealing whiskey and sheep (insert your own joke here).

One of the biggest draws at the festival is the traditional athletic events. Scotland's sports seem to be based more on machismo than actual ability. Most of them involve tossing something, either for height or distance. Events like the sheaf toss (hurling a bag of hay straight up in the air using a three-pronged pitchfork) or the stone throw (tossing a rounded stone--called a clachneart--for distance) sound like a way to trick Scotsmen into doing farm work. Other events revolve mostly around the fact that wearing a kilt is, quite literally, a pain in the ass, like the kilted mile (running in a kilt) or kilted golf.

The biggest drawback to the Texas Scottish Festival is the food. First-timers should avoid the traditional Scottish foods such as haggis and Scotch eggs. It might seem like a good idea after you've had a few pints, but we can assure you that the only thing worse than eating Scottish food is looking at it. As Mike Myers said in his 1993 film So I Married an Axe Murderer, "Most Scottish cuisine seems to be based on a dare." Go for the turkey leg instead.

--Zac Crain

The Texas Scottish Festival and Highland Games take place at the University of Arlington's Maverick Stadium June 5-7. Gates are open from 5 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11:30 Saturday, and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $9 per day. Call (817) 654-2293.


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