I spent most of Saturday at the Illinois St. Andrew's Society's 24th Annual Highland Games in Oak Brook, IL. The Illinois St. Andrew's Society is the largest Scottish Society in the United States and is one of the largest Scottish Societies in the world next to Scotland, of course. I was suffering from a respiratory infection which I am still recovering from, but the weather was absolutely beautiful and I couldn't resist getting out to soak up some Scottish culture. It's been a while since I have been in the highlands of Scotland. I was supposed to be there in April, but due to that pesky volcano whose name no one can pronounce, my plans were deterred and I ended up spending most of my time in Ireland and Cornwall. Not a bad place to be stuck in, but there is something about Scotland! A raw, fierce energy and vigor that flows through the air. No, I am not one of those Americans who thinks that a day in the Highlands come right out of one of the scenes in Braveheart (I've been to Stirling-William Wallace's birthplace and I have friends there), but having dived off of cliffs into freezing cold lochs after a little too much whiskey or playing tunes furiously onstage with my crazy Scottish friends, I can say there is something to the Scotts here. Something wild and exciting. I'm not saying every Scottish person runs around in a kilt, holding a bottle of whiskey, and face painted. I was with musicians and shinty players when I dove off of cliffs. They are a whole different ballgame. People live life in Scotland as normally as anyone. They have normal jobs, lives, and concerns. But, there is something in the air that makes you want to come back. Is it the land? The people? The music? Afterall, I named my record label after my favorite area in Scotland, Glencoe, because I was so moved by its eerie beauty.
So, how could I resist going to the games? I took my pal Sarah who had never been to a highland games before, and had certainly never seen a man in a kilt! That alone, was worth going. To see her reaction as all of the handsome pipers and atheletes walked by. And, when she had her first sip of Irn Bru and ate a pasty for the first time. I couldn't convince her to try haggis, though. We had a great time as the winning pipe band had a jam session infront of the rock stage. She couldn't believe all of the energy and excitement. She thanked me for taking her and said she wanted to see something like this again. I told her next time, it would be in the Highlands for sure. She asked me how these people could participate in such unusual games, how they could eat such unique food, and then top it all off with many beers and a session. The only answer I had for her was, "Hey, it's a Scottish thing."