History of the Arkansas Scottish festival
Dr. Ralph Graham established the Highland Games (now Arkansas Scottish Festival) in 1980 on the Arkansas College campus as a way to pay homage to the Scottish heritage of the College’s Presbyterian founders. With the support of President Dan West and college administrators, including Dennis Wright, the festival began as a small Scottish fair on the campus’ intramural field as a part of homecoming celebrations. As it grew, the festival moved onto a larger area surrounding the field, and then moved again in 2004 to incorporate the central area of the college campus.
Now held annually in April, the Arkansas Scottish Festival has gone from being an obscure fair in the foothills of the Ozarks to one of the best-known Scottish festivals in the South. Pipe bands, solo pipers, drummers, dancers, athletes, Celtic performers, clan representatives, and vendors have traveled from all corners of the country to attend and participate in the event.
On Friday, gates open at noon with select vendors, musical acts, Scottish dancers, sheep dog demonstrations, and athletic demonstrations.
On Saturday, gates open at 8 a.m. Meanwhile, you can start your day with a Scottish breakfast at the College’s dining hall from 7 - 9 a.m., followed by piping competitions, a book sale at the Mabee-Simpson Library, sheepdog demonstrations, Highland dancing demonstrations, children’s games, a British car show, and an amusement area for all ages.
Opening ceremonies begin that day at 1 p.m. with a parade of massed bands and clans.
Afternoon activities include pipe band demonstrations with bands from around the region as well as our own Lyon College pipe band, Patrick Regan at the Entertainment tent, vendors, plenty of Scottish Clans on Clan Row, and Highland Dance. An awards ceremony at 4 p.m. will include trophies for piping and drumming winners, the Celtic poetry contest, piper of the day, drummer of the day, and best clan as well as scholarship awards. A feast and ceilidh (a party with music and dancing) finishes off the day. Bring your dancing shoes, and don’t forget to purchase tickets early!
Sunday morning's events begin with a traditional Iona outdoor worship service. Highlights of the day include pipe band demonstrations, Celtic music, two concerts, and the Bonniest Knees Contest (which features blindfolded women hand-testing the knees of kilted men).