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Scottish Festival in Old Westbury aims to keep heritage ‘alive’

Two of the Valerie Wilcox dancers demonstrate a

Two of the Valerie Wilcox dancers demonstrate a traditional Scottish Highland dance at the 57th Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games held at Old Westbury Gardens on Aug 26, 2017. Credit: Nicole Horton

It’s been more than 50 years since Jim Hogg emigrated from a small fishing village in Scotland to Huntington, but the move was fresh in his mind Saturday at the 57th annual Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which he helped organize.

“We want to try to keep it alive,” Hogg, 77, said of Scottish culture in the United States. “A lot of people don’t know about their heritage. This is one way for them to find out.”

About 7,000 people were expected Saturday at the festivities in Old Westbury, drawn by traditional Celtic music, Scottish food and wares sold by dozens of vendors — and the chance to watch grown men in kilts hurl giant logs across a field.

The strength competitions were a main draw for Mary Ann Case, 79, who traveled from Suffern, New York, with her husband and son.

“Just to pick up the pole is an accomplishment,” said Case, incredulously, as she watched a group of men practicing for the Caber Toss, an event in which contestants attempt to flip a massive wooden beam into the air.

Nearby, dozens of children hopped in sacks and balanced golf balls on spoons in the miniature version of the Highland Games.

Robert Stewart of Asbury, New Jersey, was among the proud and amused parents watching from the sidelines.

“We’ve been coming here for years,” said Stewart, 47, who grew up in Hicksville and remembered attending the festival as a child.

Those interested in Scottish history gravitated toward a group of historical re-enactors who displayed weaponry and military garb from the 18th century.

“We’re just showing people the life of a soldier,” said Michael Grillo, 55, of Scarsdale, as one of his colleagues carefully exhibited his musket’s bayonet to a leery young spectator.

As the strength competitions neared, Nicholas York, 35, watched his soon-to-be opponents warm up.

York, of West Babylon, lost the Sheaf Toss — hurling a heavy sack with a pitchfork — last year after taking first place the two years prior.

His strategy for regaining his title?

“Pull with everything you got,” he said.

He’ll have to try again next year. York tied for second.

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