The sound of bagpipes, Celtic rock and cheering crowds roared throughout the Alameda County Fairgrounds over the Labor Day weekend for an annual celebration of Scottish culture.
Thousands of visitors, local and from afar, were drawn to Pleasanton for the 157th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games. Many dressed in kilts and medieval clothing, visitors happily took part in celebrating Scottish heritage, history and traditions at the two-day fair.
"The entire event is held to honor Scottish culture and activities. You can enjoy it whether you are Scottish or not," said Sabine Zimmerhansl of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco, which organizes the annual Scottish Games.
"We're glad to know so many people enjoy the Gathering, we hear of people coming from all over to visit. Many who are Scottish come out to indulge in their own history and heritage of course, but we also try to make the different planned shows fun and exciting for everyone."
The Caledonian Club of San Francisco, founded in 1866, is known as one of the oldest Scottish societies still active today. Each year its festival includes fan-favorite activities like heavyweight athletics, Highland dancing, archery and historical reenactments.
This year saw dozens of live shows, such as Birds of Prey where handlers showed off aerial animals such as falcons, hawks and owls.
A full crowd watched in awe as demonstrators carefully handled the birds. "Falcons can move up to 250 miles per hour," one handler explained.
Celtic rock could be heard throughout the festival around the clock. Bands like Tempest and Albannach showcased their bagpipe, drumming and fiddle skills when it was time to take the stage.
The event is the longest running Scottish Gathering and Games in California. It has been held at the fairgrounds for the last 30 years. Now an iconic Pleasanton event, the Scottish Games are sponsored by a number of local entities including the city of Pleasanton and Visit Tri-Valley.
"Hosting the Gathering in Pleasanton is the perfect location for us. The fairgrounds help us put on this event and it's inviting for all who visit," Zimmerhansl said.
The organization has announced its plans for next year's gathering, the 158th Scottish Highland Gathering and Games, to be held Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2024 at the fairgrounds once again.