This past Sunday was an outstanding example of a fall day here in central Virginia; sunny, not too warm, not too cool. In other words, it was the perfect day to attend the Central Virginia Highland Games and Celtic Festival. This event has returned to the old State Fair grounds near Mechanicsville after following the State Fair up to its new home near Doswell, VA. (I’m going to skip relating the soap opera that was Atlantic Rural Expositions & its departure from Strawberry Hill.)

My wife & I locked up the house in Hopewell and drove up to Richmond dressed in traditional Scottish-American attire: I wore a kilt & she wore slacks – cargo pants to be exact. This jaunt was a bit strange for us as it was the first time in five years that we’ve attended one of these events and we were not hosting a clan tent. Back in the auld days, we – or at least I – attended 3 to 5 of these things a year, loading up the truck or the car with everything we needed to represent Clan Macpherson and/or Clan Grant and then driving off on Fri. evening or Saturday morning to wherever we were supposed to be.

The recession of ’08 had a lot of side-effects and one of them was a mortal blow to a number of these events. Highland games depend upon the fees garnered from Clan societies and vendors as well as proceeds from the gate in order to stay afloat. In the case of the small to medium-sized events, putting them on is a labour of love mostly and if they break even, it’s a good year. Nonetheless, it is all a house of cards. The public won’t come if the Clan Societies and vendors aren’t there and if the public is not going to turn out, then the vendors don’t want the hassle of paying the necessary fees and setting up shop. It’s the same way with the Clan Societies. Most of the tents are funded by the people who host them and are thus even more sensitive to disappointing turn-outs. If there is little or no chance of recruiting new members then why shell out the $$ and loading up the car/truck when you could be home watching football.

People lost jobs during the recession and the extras that made life fun – like attending Highland games – were curtailed or eliminated altogether. The folks who loaded up their cars couldn’t afford to do so anymore which brings me back to our day at the Central Virginia games. The Clan tents were there but fewer than 5 years ago. The vendors were there though not quite as many as before. The crowds were fairly decent but we only saw a handful – and a wee handful at that – of people from before the recession. Some, of course, had reached that certain age when it was time to stop doing stuff like this while others may have relocated, but the rest . . .

What I can report is that we had a fairly good time that afternoon. We got to hear “Oh Shenandoah” on the pipes which is second in chills-up-the-spine only to “Highland Cathedral” and saw an athlete hit a perfect 12 o’clock with a tossed caber. The only downside was the poor excuse for a meat pie that I was forced to endure. And when we had our fill of the festivities, we simply walked out to our car & drove home instead of having to wait until 5:00 or 6:00 before we could pack everything up and then hit the road.

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