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Old Westbury Gardens’ Highland Games are a kilty pleasure

The Inis Fada Gaelic Bagpipers march at the

The Inis Fada Gaelic Bagpipers march at the Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games at Old Westbury Gardens. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

They’re bringing the whole kilt and kaboodle back to Old Westbury Gardens on Saturday, Aug. 27. The Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games will descend upon the estate, bringing with it bagpipes and brawn in a salute to all things associated with bonny Scotland.

Originally modeled after the Highland games played in Scotland for centuries, the Long Island festival has grown to include a wide range of attractions. Now in its 56th year, the event makes up the largest Scottish games in the New York area and the biggest single-day attraction at Old Westbury Gardens. Organizers expect between 7,000 and 9,000 lads and lassies.

“You do not have to be Scottish to attend. We welcome all people who would like to enjoy a day of music, dance, competition, food and shopping,” says Andrew McInnes, committee chairman of the Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games organization, which is co-hosting the event with Old Westbury Gardens.

Among the returning games are putting the stone (similar to shot put but with an irregular-shaped, 16-pound stone) and tossing the sheaf (where a bale of hay is picked up with a pitchfork and tossed over a bar). Especially popular is the caber toss (which requires competitors toss a large, heavy tapered pole called a “caber” end over end), which isn’t just a guy thing.

McInnes, 71, is hopeful that this year’s female caber toss contest will have its largest turnout of competitors and spectators.

“Women over the past two years have competed in all the mentioned events, but each year we get more and more,” says McInnes, a Mineola resident. “At first, it was only women practicing and then in the last two years, there have been more, so we began giving medals and trophies.”

Children ages 5 to 17 can also compete in a modified caber toss competition with a caber made of PVC pipe instead of wood. Potato sack races and tug-of-war contests also will be available for youngsters.

“We hope that our attendees take away a sense of Scottish culture and are aware of some of the things the Scots have contributed to the American culture,” McInnes says.

Those contributions, of course, include bagpipes, and five bands of pipers will perform at the all-day event. Scottish highland dancers and Irish step dancers will also kick up their kilts.


The day isn’t devoted entirely to competition.

“We are as much a Scottish festival as we are an American festival with rides, face painting, children’s races, an agility dog show, birds of prey and a pirates group,” McInnes said.

Other attractions include a petting zoo, storytelling, puppets, sand art, a giant slide and a bounce house. Auto enthusiasts can get revved up for a British car show.

Many returning vendors have been taking part in the event for more than 30 years. Expect food vendors to serve up fish and chips, Scottish desserts and haggis. If you’re holding on to a shortbread recipe, you might consider dusting it off and entering the shortbread contest.

Satisfy a kilty pleasure with help from merchandisers who will be selling Scottish attire, jewelry and books.

“Anyone coming will be entertained all day,” McInnes says, “and if that is not enough, they can tour Old Westbury Gardens, which is considered one of the more beautiful gardens, not only on Long Island but in the world.”

Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games

WHEN | WHERE 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug, 27, Old Westbury Gardens, 71 Old Westbury Rd.

INFO $20 adults, $18 ages 62 and older, $8 ages 7-17, free younger than 6; 516-317-0852,

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