Our Assistant Brewery, Anthony Stone, reflects on the Bellingham Highland Games:
I’ve had a long history with Hovander park and the Bellingham Highland Games. Growing up in Bellingham, Hovander has always been one of my favorite parks in Whatcom County. While I was a student at Huxley I had the opportunity to work on a project there and meet with the recently deceased Charles Hovander, one to the last children to grow up on the farm. Also while at Western I took two quarters of Scottish Highland Dance, the second quarter students perform at the Bellingham Highland Games. (Just a note to current Western guys, I was the only guy in a class with about twenty girls so not a bad class to take!) Anyways, our class did some Scottish Country Dancing demonstrations at the games which is why I bought my kilts from a vendor there at the games. That year I also discovered the beer garden and I keep going back every year since.
The last several years I started volunteering with Boundary Bay Brewery to help pour beer in the beer garden, and help co-ordinate those volunteers. Every year it gets bigger under the guidance of Jared Winchester. This year we were pouring eight beers, five meads, and three wines. That is an amazing selection for any event. Last year I participated in the Novice Heavy Athletics. (click here to see photos of Anthony in last year’s competition!)I had no idea what I was doing, but Bob Ham and the guys were very helpful and patient. I say I participated because if you saw these guys, I was definitely not any competition for them. This year I stayed with my best event, keg tossing and marathon beer pouring. We went through about 20 kegs of Boundary Bay beer alone this last weekend, that’s 310 gallons or 2480 pints. Apparently the Highland Games president, Peter Rolstead or “Peter Piper,” was pleased with my performance because he gave me medal before I left.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bellingham Highland Games and is a busy two day event. You don’t have to be Scottish to have a good time with so much to see and do throughout the weekend. The two biggest draws I think are the athletics and the pipe bands. If you’ve never been before, I suggest getting there for the opening ceremonies when all the bands play together. I’ve had friends go there for the first time and visit a clan tent only to shortly after find themselves proudly carrying their clan banner in the Parade of Clans. The clan tents are a great resource for people wanting to research their Scottish ancestry. There are loads of great vendors there, but probably the coolest thing to get at the Highland games is a sword or battle axe. I don’t know how many guys I’ve seen leave the beer garden after a few Highland Scotch Reserves only to come back an hour later showing off their latest weapon. I always encourage the uninitiated to try some Haggis and Irn-Bru, Scotland’s distinctive soft drink. There’s also Highland Dancing, Irish harping, Drumming, Bag Pipes, bands like our local Maggie’s Fury and the ever popular Wicked Tinkers. You can camp there at the park over night and some people even sleep.
Every year I am impressed with the hard work and dedication of the dozens of volunteers who make the Bellingham Highland Games such a great success. They are a tight knit group that really exemplifies what being part of a clan means. There is always a need for new volunteers to help. If you’ve never been to the Highland Games, then please come out next year. It is always held on the first weekend of July. If nothing else come have a meat pie and a Highland Reserve in the sun and listen to all those bagpipes… I wake up the next morning and can still hear them… If you are interested in more information about the Highland Games or want to volunteer, check out their website www.bhgs.org or call/fax 360-647-8500.
Alba Go Bragh! Scotland Forever! Cheers, -Anthony