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BONNIE BASH : 2-Day Festival in Costa Mesa Will Showcase Traditional Cultures of Scotland

May 23, 1991|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who covers Kids Stuff regularly for The Times Orange County Edition.

Let's see, there's Novice Piping (Grade II) followed by Class B 22-Pound Hammer and the Professional Open Stone Put. Later on, you'll want to catch the Caber Toss, the Farmer's Walk--and, hey, how 'bout those Tartan Midgets?

What may sound like a cross between a show on building materials and lord-knows-what is, in fact, a sampling of the 59th annual Highland Gathering and Festival to be held Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26, at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

Billed as the largest of its kind in the Southland (about 45,000 attended last year), the festival will include dozens of musical and dance performances, athletic competitions and games that showcase the traditions and cultures o' bonnie Scotland.

Sponsored by the United Scottish Society, a nonprofit group with more than 2,500 members across Southern California, the festival has roots that reach as far back as the 13th Century, according to Bob Reoch, the society's 1991 chieftain (or president) and festival coordinator.

Such popular events as the hammer throw and the caber toss (in which manly men try to heave a 20-foot, 120-pound fir pole end over end) are based on centuries-old fighting methods used by clans battling over territorial rights. They continue today as a means to "promote and preserve the Scottish culture," Reoch said.

Other games on the agenda include the farmer's walk, a foot race in which competitors tote a 150-pound weight in each hand, and the stone put, similar to the modern shot put. Rugby and soccer competitions featuring U.S. and Scottish teams will be held both days.

Featured musical performers at the festival include the Regimental Band, Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, a 54-man ensemble widely recognized for its popular recording of "Amazing Grace," to be performed here with the U.S. 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band (both groups recently returned from service in the Persian Gulf). Other musicians will include the Nicholson Pipes and Drums and world champion fiddler Alasdair Fraser; there'll also be several bagpipe and drumming competitions.

Reoch says about 60 Scottish clans are represented in Southern California, and most will be involved in the festival. Visitors can stop by the various clan booths to trace their lineage, said Reoch, an executive with an Anaheim mortgage company and a member of the clan Farguarson, which dates to the 13th Century. Clan members, bedecked in traditional costume, will parade their family tartans on Saturday and Sunday morning in a March Past of Scottish Clans.

The kilt itself has a colorful but practical past. The first kilts actually were large blankets, folded into pleats and belted about the waist. It was a way to keep your bed close at hand, but it tended to be a bit bulky. In the 18th Century, a Quaker industrialist working in the Highlands, seeking to make his employees more comfy and efficient, hired a tailor to modify the outfit and came up with the forerunner of the modern, shorter kilt we see today.

Accessories may include knee stockings with a sgian dubh, or knife, tucked into the right stocking as a reminder of the costume's military service in World War I and II; a sporran, or leather pouch, hanging in front, and a tam or glengarry (dented cap).

One of the best places at the festival to see Highland dress is at the Western Regional Highland Dancing competition, where costumed dancers from the United States, Canada and Australia will compete in the Highland Fling, the Sword Dance and others. There also will be a Baby Highland Fling contest for children as young as 4 or 5, and a demonstration by the comic Tartan Midgets. The public can kick up its own heels at a Royal Scottish Country Dancing workshop.

Should you work up an appetite, there will be plenty of traditional Scottish finger foods from which to choose, including bangers (sausage and onions on a roll) and Scottish meat pie. Diehards may be disappointed, though, to learn that the Highland favorite haggis, a concoction of minced sheep's innards and oatmeal cooked in a sheep stomach, will be absent from the menu.

What: The 59th annual Highland Gathering and Festival.

When: Saturday, May 25, and Sunday, May 26, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: The Orange County Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

Whereabouts: Take the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway south to Newport Boulevard, turn right onto Fair Drive.

Wherewithal: $1 to $10.

Where to call: (714) 998-7857 or (213) 395-0063.

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