Be Scottish For a Day at Highland Games in Oak Brook

| June 17, 2009 | 0 Comments

bagpiperThe lush green fields of the Oak Brook Polo Grounds become Scotland for a weekend each June when the Illinois St. Andrew Society hosts its annual Highland Games. The sound of bagpipes fills the air, and the mood is one of celebration.

“This is the largest and best Scottish festival in the Midwest,” says Gus Noble, President of the Society. “We pride ourselves on making families feel like they’ve been transported to Scotland for a weekend of fun while enjoying a unique opportunity to learn more about Scottish culture.”

The festival is jam-packed with things to see, learn and do. Highlights include a Highland Dance competition, whisky tastings and seminars, piping and drumming competition; Heavy Athletics U.S. Open Championship featuring traditional Scottish contests including the caber toss (flipping a 20-foot, 140-pound tree trunk), the 22-pound hammer throw, the sheaf toss (flipping a bale of hay over a high bar) and the clachnert (throwing a 16-pound river stone). You can also watch rugby, soccer, and falconry demonstrations, see dogs of Scotland, a British Car Show, a Haggis Hurling Contest (for women) and a Knobbly Knees Kilt Contest (for men). Traditional Scottish cuisine and drink are available including a Tea & Shortbread Tent and the Celtic Marketplace, featuring a variety of unique Scottish and Celtic merchandise. The festivities culminate with the Closing Ceremonies and Massed Bands Show, a spectacle of 1,000 bagpipers and drummers, all joined in performing several traditional musical selections including Amazing Grace.

My family considers this festival a June must-do, even though we’re not Scottish (though we like to pretend we are, at least for a day.) You won’t want to miss the music stages, the meat pies, the Guinness on tap, the Celtic Marketplace (take home some scones or shortbread) and either the Parade of the Tartans or the Massed Bands. Children will enjoy trying their hand at a kid-sized caber toss as well as miniature golf. Crafts and a few carnival-type attractions are also available. You might want to bring a wagon to cart small kids, or your belongings, because you will do a good deal of walking. Sunscreen and an umbrella are also a good idea. Though tented areas are available, seats fill quickly and there’s not much shade on the polo grounds, unless you make your own.

The Illinois Saint Andrew Society is the oldest 501(c)3 charity in Illinois, as well as the largest Scottish organization in North America. Its principal charity is the Scottish Home, a nursing home built in 1910 in North Riverside.

The 23rd Annual Scottish Festival & Highland Games at the Polo Grounds in Oak Brook, Illinois is open to the public on Friday, June 19 from 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm and Saturday, June 20 from 8:00 am – 9:00 pm. For an event schedule, click here. For more information and to purchase tickets online, see or call (708) 447-5092.

Photo Credit: via flickr by Eric Charlton

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Born and raised in the Chicago area, Dawn Williams Bertuca is a freelance writer and editor. She is co-founder and Girlfriend-In-Chief at Follow Dawn on twitter at

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