The Bitterroot Valley has a long history of Scottish and Irish influences, which visitors from near and far celebrate with gusto Aug. 19-20 during the Bitterroot Celtic Games and Gathering.
Gates open at 9 a.m. daily and shuttle buses transport visitors from Hamilton High School to festival grounds at the Daly Mansion. The setting is appropriate, since the Irish-born copper magnate Marcus Daly designed his elaborate summer home to emulate an Irish manor.
Saturday’s festivities begin with Highland dance and solo pipe and drum competitions, and performances by Bozeman fiddler Tom Robison, The Craicers and Angus of the Australian band BROTHER.
The seventh annual event officially kicks off at 1 p.m. with Opening Ceremonies, featuring a parade of clans, bands and athletes, and a performance of the ancient Scottish lament, “Flowers o’ the Forest.” The afternoon brings more music, with Swagger in the mix, performances by the Missoula Irish Dancers and demonstrations of Irish hurling – a high-octane team sport that combines the skills of baseball, hockey and lacrosse.
The day closes at 7 p.m. with a free ceilidh – a social gathering that includes traditional music, dancing and storytelling.
Sunday morning brings a Kirkan o’ the Tartan church service and an advanced Highland dance workshop. The Grand Parade of Clans marches forth at 1 p.m. and the gates close at 4 p.m. Music by Top House and Swagger, and Highland dance and herd-dog demonstrations are on tap all day. The public is invited to compete in a tug o’ war, skillet toss, the Bonnie Knees contest, and Beards and Braids.
Of course, what celebration of Irish and Scottish culture would be replete without whetting a wee whistle? Sample mead at 11 a.m. daily ($10); compare Scotch and Irish whiskey at 5 p.m. Saturday ($50); and taste Scotch at 2 p.m. Sunday ($30). Food, beverages and Celtic wares are available throughout the weekend.
Tickets are $5-$10 Saturday, $5-$8 Sunday or $15 for a weekend pass; call 406-274-8886 or visit bcgg.org.