Kilts, bagpipes and large men throwing heavy things will be the focus Saturday at the Dakota County Fairgrounds as the Minnesota Scottish Fair and Highland Games makes its annual return to Farmington. The one-day event is a celebration of all things Scottish. There will be music, Highland dancing, displays on Scottish history and a whole lot of food. We talked with executive director Liz Michaelson Monday to find out more about what's going on.
Tell me a little bit about what's going on. This is your seventh year in Farmington now?
Actually, it's our eighth. This year we have lots of new things. I have some new exhibits. We also have the Twin Cities Hurling Club. They're coming down and doing demo games. Hurling is an Irish sport that's very similar to one of the Scottish sports. They're sort of like field hockey. They will be there. We have lots of additional music, including a brand new band that we'll be debuting at the end of the day during our after-party. I've not even had a chance to hear them yet, so we're very excited. It's four young men who were born in Scotland and now live in the Twin Cities.
We also have Highland Reign returning this year after a couple of year absence. They're from Indianapolis. Double Fiddles is coming down from Duluth. We have a number of other local people. Our normal competitions in pipe and drum and the bagpiping area. The traditional Scottish athletics, Highland dancing and a Scottish harp competition. In our animal exhibits we have added Shetland sheep this year, which is wonderful. Really, it's a full plate, very similar to what it's been in the past but every year we tweak it and add a few new things.
You've got the things you know work, but there's a little bit of growth and a little bit of change every year.
Absolutely. We want people to be able to come and say, Ooh, there was something new, and it gives them a reason to come back the following year.
How long have you been involved with the Scottish Fair?
I have been involved with this one since day one. I also served on the committee when it was still at Macalester and it was the Scottish Country Fair. That was our predecessor and I served on that committee for many years.
What's the appeal for you as far as putting something like this together?
Well, I have Scottish ancestry, number one. I enjoy the people I'm working with. I like seeing subsequent generations latching on to their ethnicity. I think in some ways we get, particularly European Americans get a little homogeneous after a while. When you have things that are special like kilts and bagpipes and all of those traditional things its a great thing to expose kids to.
It's a great thing to expose them to even if they're not Scottish. It's kind of a whole new world.
Absolutely. Witness Festival of Nations this past weekend where they had 75 or 80 different ethnic groups participating. It's just a wonderful opportunity. Both of my grown kids are involved, as is my husband. I tell him what to do and he says, 'Yes, dear.'
It's good you've got him trained like that.
Oh, it works very well.
Are there things that have been particular favorites over the years?
I think for everyone bagpipes would probably be the number one thing. I know in our audience surveys that is always the number one thing that's mentioned.
What about you? Do you have any particular favorites among the things that are going on there?
I really love it all so much. The one regret when you're in the organizing group is that you don't get to enjoy the event that you helped plan because you're always busy doing things. But piping has always been a favorite of mine, and Highland dancing. I love to be able to just watch what all the little kids are doing and to see the joy they take in things that adults sometimes take for granted.
Are things coming together well this year? Are you going to be ready to go on Saturday?
We are. I just spent the afternoon picking up the program. It's so funny, I had to pull off the road twice to take calls and I missed getting to my screen printer before they closed to pick up the children's shirts that are new to us this year. We've never done a kids' size shirt. This one has the Loch Ness monster on it and says Monstrously Scottish. So, that will be fun....
We have moved some of our exhibitors indoors. Last year you may recall the metro area generally had severe thunderstorms and we got hit with a lot of wind. Not as much rain, but lots and lots of wind.
Has attendance stayed pretty steady over the years, or has it grown? What's it been like?
We're on a wonderful growth trend, and then last year's weather blew us out of the water and we dropped off. I'm really anticipating, based on -- my office phone number is the general information number and it's just been nuts. There were times today when I was juggling the house line making an outgoing call at the same time as an incoming call came in on my office and another one on my cell phone. I think it's a good indication.... The growth, I would say we probably run 10 percent or more a year.