Scottish Highland Games offer music, dance, camel rides

Glen Winchester asks, somewhat facetiously: What do the following things have in common?

• Dancing in the park

• Rock climbing

• Antique cars

• Wolves, cougars and alligators

• Cannon fire

• And bagpipes.

Answering his own question, Winchester says: They all happen at the 55th annual Bellingham Scottish Highland Games on Saturday and Sunday, June 6- 7, at Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale.

Winchester, director of the games for seven years, boasts that the event has something for everyone of any age.

People can enjoy the pipers, drummers and dancers; listen to Celtic fiddles with students and friends of Quist Violins in the shade of the barn; join in with the country dancers; check out their Scottish heritage at the clan tents; try their hand on a harp; or shop for that perfect gift— perhaps a new kilt or a claymore sword.

No need to snack before you arrive; there will be more more than a dozen food vendors offering Scottish meat pies, barbecue, ice cream, hot dogs and yes, haggis, washed down with ale and beer from Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro and wines from regional wineries.

In addition to the athletic competition and the Highland dancing, piping and drumming, one of the highlights takes place during the opening ceremonies at noon Saturday. It’s Winchester calls the “massing of the bands,” when 200-plus pipers and drummers come together and play as one “massed” band. They also play at the end of each day’s events.

California Celtic rock band Wicked Tinkers return to the festival with performances both days, as will Bellingham’s Maggie’s Fury.

Bellingham’s Camel Safari also returns with its camel rides, and the rock-climbing wall will appeal to adventurous folks, Winchester says.

New this year is Predators of the Heart, a wildlife refuge and sanctuary from Anacortes, with wolves, cougars, alligators, birds of prey, and various small animals on exhibit three times each day.

Also new this year is the Scottish Games 5K Fun Run and Walk, at 10 a.m. Sunday (registration starts at 9 a.m. near the boat launch on the Nooksack River. Participants will following the river along the highland trail to Tennant Lake, and back. Runners who have tested the run say it is one of the most scenic runs they’ve done. That’s not surprising; one of the reasons the games take place at Hovander Park is its similarity to the Scottish countryside.

In addition, the games will host for the first time the Scottish Games Open Car Show, starting at 10 a.m. Sunday by the orchard next to the Hovander house.

Winchester says some events might change because of the weather, and he reminds people to leave their pets at home.

If you’re eager to jump in the festivities before Saturday, come to the park for Friday’s free “Scottish Idol” talent show and ceilidh (party) at 7 p.m. and the “kirkin’ o’ the firkin,” the tapping of a private batch of Boundary Bay’s Highland Reserve Scotch Ale. Sign-up for the talent show starts at 6.