Culture / Music

Celtic festival marches into Estes Park

ScottishHighlandsBy Doug Fox
It’s pageantry, patriotism, spirit and spectacle all wrapped into one fabulous weekend, Sept. 7-10, at the Estes Park Fairgrounds. The Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival marks its 41st anniversary with this year’s performances and displays.

Tattoo Estes kicks things off at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 7, with bagpipe and military bands putting on a fabulous display of music, marching, and just plain fun.

“I didn’t realize it was going to take over my life,” says Dr. James Durward, who founded Scot Fest 41-years ago. “It has been such a quality experience for me. Entertaining people, seeing people come to Estes Park, I did not realize our arms would reach as far as they have to the people interested in coming and seeing our festival, and they see Estes Park, and they just fall in love with the whole atmosphere.”

IMG_2046Some of the best pipe bands and military bands in the country come to Scot Fest each year. This year, the Scottish Power Pipe Band from Glasgow, Scotland will be performing on the field during the day and at the tattoos in the Fairgrounds Arena on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. This band just recently finished 4th in international competition among the Grade One (the best) pipe bands in the world.

The bands and units invited to perform at the tattoo this year include: Second Marine Division Band – “The Division’s Own” from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Royal Bermuda Regiment Band from Warwick, Bermuda; 1st Brigade Civil War Band from Watertown, Wisc.; Scottish Power Pipe Band from Glasgow, Scotland; Northern Colorado Caledonia Pipe Band from Fort Collins; Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard from Ft. Riley, Kansas; and the Mountain Men’s Chorus from Estes Park.

IMG_2038Durward says there also will be individual singers, Celtic rock groups, and other performers at the festival. They perform during the day on the festival grounds and at special concerts Friday and Saturday night at the Event Center. But not every group that wants to be in the festival gets a chance.

“Believe it or not, we have file drawers full of ‘wanna-be’s’ that want to come and be part of our festival,” he says. “We’re very selective. You only hear the best when you come to the festival in Estes Park.”

It’s not an inexpensive undertaking. The festival pays all of the groups’ air travel expenses, room and board, ground transportation, and even insurance in some cases. It’s thousands and thousands of dollars.

IMG_0954One non-musical group performing at the tattoo is the Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard from the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. It is one of only seven equestrian units in the U.S. Army. It will put on a dazzling exhibition of horsemanship that dates back to frontier days in America.

The First Brigade Band from Watertown, Wisconsin also brings history alive as it plays with antique musical instruments that date back to the Civil War. Check out which way the horns face. You’ll be surprised.

There will be Celtic rock music, folk music, an Irish dancing competition, a bagpiping competition, jousting competition, and an athletic competition, such as the caber toss. Some describe that as throwing a telephone pole end over end.

IMG_0975“I don’t know how those guys get it up in the air let alone throw it,” says Durward. He says a lot of the elements of the competition are the basis for the modern Olympics. “The shot put meant throwing a cannon ball, a shot. The hammer throw: the guys who worked in the quarries had these huge 16-pound hammers. Who could throw it the farthest? The farmers walk was to see how far you could carry 600 pounds of iron. The Scots are just so competitive. ‘If you’re doing anything, by gosh, I can do it better.’”

The Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival runs Sept. 7-10. There’s the parade of clans through downtown Estes Park on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. It’s free.

The Tattoo is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 7-9 at the Fairgrounds Arena.

The Festival Field at the Fairgrounds will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 8-10. Tickets are available at the Estes Park Visitors Center. Individual Day Passes for $25 are available with advanced purchase only. Child tickets for ages 5-10 are $5, Junior Tickets for ages 11-16 are $10, three-day passes for Friday-Sunday are $72, Tattoo Tickets are $35 and evening concerts are $35.

For more information, visit or call 866-713-4138.

Photos courtesy Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival

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