Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Highland Games time again with Danahey on the Loose

Cicadas and bagpipers might be in Wheaton.


The cicadas may or may not be gone from Wheaton come Friday, June 14. So that drone you hear in the distance there might actually be bagpipes, not legions of loud, lonely bugs.

That’s because the Chicago Scots will be in town at the DuPage County Fairgrounds for the 38th Annual Scottish Festival & Highland Games.

The games had been held in Itasca – and before that at the Polo Grounds in Oak Brook – before heading to Wheaton this year. Organizers say the event usually draws 10,000 to 15,000 people.

The two-day outdoor gathering of the clans is billed as the Midwest’s largest event of its kind. It features the largest pipe band championship in North America. That makes it an XXL fest, which is a good thing, because that’s my size.


Big athletes at Highland Games
Big guys compete at the Highland Games, tossing stuff.


Highland Games mean brawny folks in kilts tossing cabers, hurling hay and throwing farm equipment over goal posts.

There will be traditional Highland dancing along with rock bands, including Seven Nations, an act celebrating its 30th anniversary. Alas, Taylor Swift, who claims royal Scottish ancestry, will be on tour elsewhere.

Animal attractions include Scottish dogs and a Scottish petting zoo. I am not sure if that means sheep, red deer, pine martens, puffins and mountain hares will be there or not.

The menu includes Scottish food such as haggis, Belhaven beers and whisky tastings. Speaking of grub and pub, the St. Sophia Greek Fest in Elgin offered really good eats. They also had the best-engineered lines for concessions at any fest I’ve attended. Kudos to them.

But back to the Scots’ Highland Games, where you can see a classic UK car show. The marketplace will offer all sorts of stuff, too, but no auto parts for the aforementioned vehicles.


Highland Games booth
T-shirt slogans can be had at the Scottish Fest and Highland Games.


I buy most of my kilt couture and my Celtic novelty t-shirts at the games. Best Fest Buddy Tom had a belt strap repaired there last year at the stall for Lambert Leather.

Back again from last summer will be National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean. Tom bought Maclean’s cookbook last time. The mailed copy was supposed to be signed. So maybe Tom will bring it along to get the signature in person and to discuss recipes.

Maclean put together a training program for the kitchen staff at Caledonia Senior Living & Memory Care in North Riverside.  Proceeds from the Highland Games go to the facility, which is Chicago Scots’ principal charity. It’s named after a Van Morrison tune. Or not.


National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean
National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean


The fest will also recognize and celebrate the Scottish roots of Illinois-based Rotary International, the planet’s largest service organization. Rotary’s current president, R. Gordon R. McInally, is one of only two Scots to be elected to lead Rotary International in the organization’s 119-year history. (One more R and he could also be a pirate. Or not.)

I never joined a Rotary Club. They offer a breakfast club option. Since this is a story about Scottish stuff, that reminds me of a Simple Minds song. Lest you forgot, it played during the end credits for “The Breakfast Club”.

There’s also a Rotary lunch bunch meeting option. I’m more of a brunch kind of guy, or maybe an early dinner one. Plus, we’re all mobile now with our phones, not  rotary.

Anyway, Rotary International will be the festival’s honored clan. McInally will lead a parade of tartans and Rotarians.

Come Saturday, June 15, just before the sun sets, once all the piping and drumming competitions are over, the entire festival will gather for massed bands.

Don’t worry. Massed bands is not a church thing. Or even a physics thing. Still, you might hear “Amazing Grace”. Either way, McInally will be there to receive the “Salute to the Chieftain”.

“The massed bands is something everyone should experience.” said Gus Noble OBE, President of Chicago Scots. “This event never fails to put wide smiles on faces, lovely warmth in hearts, and proud springs in steps. I love the energy and camaraderie that’s shared by all who attend. The festival also creates a genuine connection to Scottish culture. Everyone is welcome at the games. Whether you’re Scottish by birth, by heritage or simply by inclination, our invitation is to come be Scottish for at least a day. The city of Wheaton has welcomed us with open arms, and we look forward to our most successful games yet.”

Ticket prices for the 38th Annual Scottish Festival & Highland Games are as follows:

  • Friday: Children 12 and under FREE; Adults $20
  • Saturday: Children 12 and under FREE; Adults $30
  • Two Day Pass – Children 12 and under FREE; Adults $45
  • VIP Two Day Pass: $200 admission includes complimentary food and beverage service (with a Scottish flare), whisky masterclass, meet & greet with the National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean, premier parking and more.

Fest hours are 1 to 10 p.m. Friday, June 14 and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 15.

The DuPage County Fairgrounds are located at 2015 Manchester Road, Wheaton. Parking will be free.

For more information, event schedules, competition registration forms, volunteer opportunities or tickets, please visit or call 708-442-7268.


Me at at Highland Games
Sometimes I wear plaid shorts to the Highland Games, not a kilt.

Leave a reply