Sarasota Highland Games a celebration of Highland Culture

Every year people of Scottish descent living in many parts of Florida and also in other parts of the United States of America arrive in Sarasota to take part in the Sarasota Highland Games and Celtic Festival.  Scots are fiercely proud of their culture, language and games, and people of Scottish descent living in many parts of the world continue to follow Scottish traditions proudly.  Scots are hardy race and have ventured in many parts of the world for better prospects.  However, they are also proud of their Scottish descent and their connection with Scotland. They try to inculcate in their children Scottish traditions and cultural values.  Thus you will find in many parts of the world individuals who have never been to Scotland wearing Scottish kilt and playing the mournful music of Scottish bagpipes. Sarasota Highland games festival is a part of the effort to keep alive the tradition and culture of Scotland.

Sarasota city is situated on the south western coast of Florida.  It is a historical city with beaches and resorts dotting around a wide area.  Florida is known for its friendly climate and healthy atmosphere; it is also known for many types of festivals it holds every year to celebrate culture and arts.  Citizens of Scottish descent living in Sarasota have formed a non profit organisation called the ‘Scottish Heritage Society of Sarasota’ that works towards promoting and highlighting the Scottish traditions.  Their aim is to create an awareness of Scottish traditions and culture by holding Highland games periodically.  The Society is run by volunteers, and the money collected is handed over to the charities.  However, one need not be a person of Scottish descent to become a member of the society.


Scottish Highland was divided in many clans; each clan was located in a specific area around a castle or a fort occupied by the clan chief. Each clan had it own Clan Chief and Coat of Arms.  All members of the family living in the vicinity were part of the Clan. When Highlanders immigrated to other land they did not relinquish their clan identity. They continued to be the part of the clan and carried on their identity.  It is a Gaelic tradition that originated in the beginning to protect the members of the clan.  The membership of a particular clan is reflected in weave of the Tartan, its colours and the clan badge that is used to hold the stole in place. Various clans form part of Sarasota Highland Games and Heritage Festival and newcomers are given option to join any clan by filling up a registration form.  They can then wear the colours of the clan and take part in the march past of the clans.

The clans can take part in the Highland Games.  The Highland Games are very different from the usual athletic events.  Originally games were conducted to help the chiefs to select the strongest men for their armies, but now they are held to celebrate the Scottish culture and test the strength and stamina of the participants. The events are ‘Tossing the Caber’, ‘Weight for Height’ and ‘Weight for Distance’, ‘Putting the Stone’, the ‘Scottish Hammer’, ‘Sheaf Toss’ and the ‘Farmers Walk’.  All these games were connected to the skills of particular type of work, for example, participants taking part in ‘Tossing the Caber’ originally worked in timber industry. They try to throw a big chunk of a log; the person who can throw the log to the longest distance is declared a winner. The participants are divided into groups or classes, based on their ages, strength, and physical ability.

Scots are cheerful lot, Scottish music and dancing is a part of Scottish tradition and it has been passed on to their descends in other parts of the world as well. It is not easy to take part in Scottish dances, the dancers use intricate patterns of steps and movements that need hours of practice.  The participants in the Celtic festival can take part in many famous Scot dances, like ‘Gillie Callum’ an intricate sword dance, or ‘Irish Jig’, ‘Scottish Tilt’ and ‘Sailors Hornpipe’.  These dances are not pure entertainment, they are hard athletic exercise and the dancers express a particular mood by using steps and movement of body.

calibre tossing

The Bagpipes are a part of Scottish culture; they originated centuries back, have appeared in many old paintings and in old books.  The bagpipe is made of bag of sheepskin, with five pipes are coming out from the bag, a mouthpiece is attached that helps in inflating and deflating the bag, the sound is produced by the process of inflation and deflation. The sound produced is sometimes describes as wailing of a child or a woman.  During the battle the sound of the bagpipes was used to terrorize the enemies.  Musicians can take part in the piping events during the festival and entertain the audience or compete with each other. The Sarasota Highlanders have their own pipe band made of experienced musicians, who play pipe and drums.

The city of Sarasota celebrates the proud culture of Scottish Highlanders through events that identify the specific culture of Scotland.  For a few days the immigrants and visitors are transported back in history and are immersed in celebrating a unique a culture that is very different from the modern culture patterns.






Leave a Reply