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Great Scot! Let the games begin at Old Westbury

A typical scene at the Scottish Games at

A typical scene at the Scottish Games at Old Westbury Gardens. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The 50th annual Scottish Games at Old Westbury Gardens on Saturday will bring back such popular late-summer activities as munching haggis and tossing the caber.

The salute to all things Scottish, organized by the 75-member Clan MacDuff, a Manhasset-based Scottish social organization, may not be your idea of a typical Long Island fair. But it is popular, and not only with Scots.

"It's the largest Scottish games in the New York area," says David Cairns of Glen Head, chief of Clan MacDuff. He expects 7,000 to 9,000 visitors at this year's games.

Scottish goods will be available from 40 vendors, including 18 food stations. Entertainment includes the Clan Gordon Highlanders Pipe Band of Locust Valley, Scottish fiddlers and Celtic dancers.

Here are five things that might surprise you about the festivities and other things Scottish:


1. Bagpipes can rock


"People don't realize it, but the bagpipes can really rock," says Erik Ofgang, 24, the bass player with MacTalla Mor. The Manhattan-based Celtic rock band comprised of Ofgang and four other members of his Scottish-Irish family will play "traditional Scottish songs with a funk groove, or a reggae groove under it," he said. They also will do a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" . . . aye, in kilts. Starts at 11 a.m. on the main stage.


2. Speaking of kilts . . .


The kilts you see at the games may look alike, but each clan's is unique. "The Clan MacDuff has its own kilt, nowhere else in the world can you find it," says Andrew McDicken of Port Washington, the games' publicity director. Traditional kilts worn by bagpipers consist of a single piece of fabric eight yards long and 54 inches wide. "You lay down to get in it," Cairns says. The tail of the kilt is thrown over the shoulder, a la Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Newer kilts are pleated, wrapped around the wearer one and a half times and worn with a belt, Cairns says. What you wear underneath "depends on how much of a Puritan you are," he adds.


3. An acquired taste - or not


Like sausage, you might not want to know how haggis, a uniquely Scottish dish, is made. (For the record, it's minced sheep innards, oats and seasonings simmered in the sheep's stomach.) But Long Island Scots swear their national dish tastes - no, not like chicken - "like French pate," McDicken says. You also can have a Scottish feast of sausage rolls (sausage wrapped in puff pastry), Scottish meat pies and bridies (spicy meat pastry). Those yet to acquire the taste can stick to fish and chips, fruit cups and ice cream.


4. Scottish gamers are manly men, but . . .


. . . they have a soft spot for the wee kiddies, who can participate in their own Scottish games. Among the events for lads and lasses: sack races, egg and spoon races (with golf balls standing in for eggs) and tug-of-war. They also can toss small plastic cabers. The adult games also feature putting the stone (shot put with a boulder) and tossing the sheaf (throwing a hay bale over a horizontal bar).


5. Nessie's nine lives


Sonar searches of the Scottish Highlands' famous lake southwest of Inverness have debunked the Loch Ness Monster, also known as Nessie. But at the Scottish games, Nessie rears her slender neck, albeit on souvenirs such as T-shirts, towels and china. You also might find Scots who still aren't convinced of Nessie's nonexistence. As Cairns says, "It's a very deep lake. . . . "

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