Scottish cuisine, fiddling and friendly competition at the 63rd Annual Ligonier Highland Games

Fans of Scottish harp music may have struggled to grasp some of its melodic intricacies on Saturday morning at the Ligonier Highland Games.

That’s because just up the hill, Sean Patrick Regan played modern and traditional Scottish melodies on bagpipes. And while both instruments are beautiful, hearing them play different tunes at the same time is a bit dissonant.

The 63rd edition of the Ligonier Highland Games took place across Idlewild Park on Saturday, with Scottish tradition honored and recognized through food, fiddling and friendly athletic competition.

Regan, a Carnegie Mellon graduate with a master’s degree in bagpipe performance, said many people are surprised to find out how few notes a bagpipe can technically play.

“It’s diatonic, which means it only has nine notes,” he said. “But if you’re willing to bend a few notes, you can get a lot of sound out of it.”

Rachel Keeler, a 1994 CMU graduate, said one of her key elements was missing this year at the university pavilion.

“We normally have Scottish food, but our vendor has gone out of business,” she said.

Keeler is a big fan of competitive sheep herding.

“There’s so much to see,” she says.

This includes the wide variety of tartans, the pattern featured on the kilts, caps and scarves worn by many in attendance and signifying membership in a historic Scottish family clan.

Scott Niggl of Kennerdale, Venango County, has been attending the games for years, but this is the first year he’s been able to wear his clan’s clothing.

“I bought them here last year,” he said of his tartan and lapel pin. “I am the Cameron clan on my mother’s side.”

Niggl and his wife, Toni, planned to meet his brother, who is attending the festival from Virginia.

Lisa Campbell and her 9-year-old son, Bash, from Level Green belong to Clan Campbell and wore what she said was the clan’s ‘old’ style of tartan with light blues and greens.

“There is some controversy between the old style and the Black Watch,” she said. “Some people have said that the Black Watch (done with darker shades of green and blue) is more of a military thing, so it’s not really representative of the clan.”

Wyatt Mackay, 75, assumed he attended the games for about 60 of their 63 years.

“I started coming here as part of a pipe band when I was a teenager,” he said. “I love the meat pies and the band contest.”

For Apollo’s Nate Smith, a member of the 42nd Highlanders who organizes First World War reenactments, the games are a peaceful and serene day.

“It’s really relaxing,” he said, “before we do a lot of our big main events like war reenactments.”

Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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