Colorado Scottish Festival returns to Snowmass Village | AspenTimes.com

Colorado Scottish Festival returns to Snowmass Village

Moving the Colorado Scottish Festival three years ago from the Front Range to its new mountain home is more akin to a true Scottish setting, and frankly, a bit more bag-pipe friendly.

While the festival scaled back in size and number of attendees upon relocating to Snowmass in 2015, the change in venue enables the Scottish society to reach a new audience, festival organizer Susan Thornton said.

"We know the makeup of people from the Western Slope is heavily Scottish and Irish backgrounds. That's what we understand from demographic studies," Thornton said. "So that's a natural outreach that the St. Andrew Society would like to do."

Today, after more than 50 years on the Front Range, Snowmass Village is home to the Colorado Scottish Festival, which kicks off tonight and will run through Sunday.

The story begins sometime in the early 1960s, when a group of folks with the St. Andrew Society of Colorado in Denver hosted a little gathering, complete with some bagpipes, games and food as a way to celebrate their Scottish heritage.

By 1970, the popularity of the Scottish-themed picnic evolved into a bonafide festival in Denver, according to festival director and Susan's husband, John Thornton.

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Susan, who's visited Scotland a number of times, said Snowmass Village feels more like Scottish landscape than the metro area.

Sporting wool kilts while playing instruments also is far more desirable in this midsummer climate than in Denver, she said, noting that the instruments sound "much nicer" in cooler temperatures.

"The pipes don't like the heat," said Thornton, who played the bagpipes in the festival for more than 20 years. "They tend to go sharp in the sun."

For the Thorntons and other clans involved in the event, the Colorado Scottish Festival is a family affair.

Both longtime members of the St. Andrew Society of Colorado, Susan assists with its public relations while John's served as co-chair of the society, which still organizes the festival to this day.

The nonprofit started in the early 1960s — around the same time as the first festival — in an effort to support and promote Scottish culture, tradition and history throughout the state.

In its first few decades at Highlands Ranch in Douglas County, the Scottish Festival attracted between 10,000 and 12,000 attendees annually, Thornton said.

Since relocating, Thornton said, "The majority of people probably come from the Front Range, though we have had people from all over the world, including an athlete who came from Japan to compete in the festival."

The festival, which features everything from Highland dancing and Irish piping and drumming to whiskey tastings and a parade of dogs, will host two new events this year: A ceilidh, or an informal Scottish party, on Saturday night as well as demonstrations by the Renaissance Scots Living History Association on Saturday and Sunday.

The Renaissance Scots is a history group that offers a glimpse into the lives of 16th- and 17th-century highlanders, Thornton explained, including activities such as leatherworking, lacemaking, swordfighting, ironsmithing and cheese making.

"It's all sorts of fun and sometimes kooky things," Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello said.

This weekend also is projected to be a busy one — potentially the busiest of the summer — in Snowmass Village, according to Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich.

"This upcoming weekend is shaping up to be one of Snowmass' busiest weekends of the entire summer," Tomcich, who tracks and reports occupancy, said earlier this week. "The fact that this upcoming weekend was already booked to 82 percent nearly two weeks ago and is expected to crack the 90 percent mark should certainly make it the busiest weekend so far this summer."

Tomcich said the only future weekend outpacing it is Labor Day.

"I am comfortable saying this weekend is expected to be one of Snowmass' busiest of the entire summer."

erobbie@aspentimes.com

Colorado Scottish Festival – 2017 schedule of events

Friday, Aug. 4:

5 to 6:30 p.m.: Thistle Club open (badge-holders only)

6:30 to 9 p.m.: Free concert on Fanny Hill featuring Ruaile Buaile

Saturday, Aug. 5:

8 to 11:30 a.m.: Solo piping and drumming competitions (Base Village)

8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Athletic competitions (Base Village)

8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.: Celtic musicians and Irish dancers (Mall)

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Renaissance Scots and children’s activities (hillside)

11 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Whiskey tasting (upper level of Base Camp Bar & Grill)

11 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Thistle Club open (badge-holders only)

12 to 1 p.m.: Ceremonies (concert stage)

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: “Bonnie Knees” contest (Mall area)

1 to 4:30 p.m.: Celtic musicians and Irish dancers (Mall)

1 to 4:30 p.m.: Highland dance competitions (concert stage)

2 to 2:45 p.m.: “Parade of Dogs” and “Blessing of the Dogs” (Mall)

2:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Pipe band competitions (Base Village)

2:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Whiskey tasting (upper level of Base Camp Bar & Grill)

4 to 5 p.m.: Whiskey tasting (upper level of Base Camp Bar & Grill)

5 to 9 p.m.: “Scottish Party Under the Stars”

Sunday, Aug. 6:

8 to 11:30 a.m.: Solo piping and drumming competitions (Base Village)

8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Athletic competitions (Base Village)

8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Musicians, Highland and Irish dancers (concert stage)

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.: Renaissance Scots and children’s activities (hillside)

9 to 9:45 a.m.: Kirkin’ (Blessing) of the Tartans (Mall)

10:30 to 11:30 a.m.: Whiskey tasting (upper level of Base Camp Bar & Grill)

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Thistle Club open (badge-holders only)

12 to 1 p.m.: Ceremonies (concert stage)

1 to 2 p.m.: Whiskey tasting (upper level of Base Camp Bar & Grill)

2 to 2:45 p.m.: “Parade of Dogs” and “Blessing of the Dogs” (Mall)

2 to 3 p.m.: Pipe band competitions (Base Village)

2:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Whiskey tasting (upper level of Base Camp Bar & Grill)

3:30 p.m.: Conclusion of 2017 festival

Note: All events are free except admission to the whiskey tastings and the Thistle Club. Information is courtesy of Colorado Scottish Festival organizers. For more information or to purchase tickets to the whiskey tastings or Thistle Club admission, visit http://www.scottishgames.org/.

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