Southlanders involved in Scottish Festival and Highland Games
By Betty Mohr email@example.com June 6, 2012 3:28PM
New Lenox resident Joe Feehan is the field layout chair for Chicago Scots' Scottish Festival and Highland Games.
◆ June 15 from 4-10 p.m. and
June 16 from 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
◆ Hamilton Lakes, 333 Pierce Road (Interstate 290 and Thorndale Avenue), Itasca, Ill.
◆ Admission, free for ages 12 and younger and $12 for adults on June 15; $5 for ages 3-12 and $20 for adults on June 16; $75 for a weekend pass that includes festival entry, premier seating inside the Patron Tent, complimentary food and beverages and a private-access VIP parking pass
◆ Parking, $5 per vehicle per day, or $8 for a two-day parking pass
◆ (708) 447-5092; chicagoscots.org
◆ Chicago Scots presents this
26th annual event.
Updated: July 9, 2012 6:04AM
When the Chicago Scots decided to move the Scottish Festival and Highland Games from its traditional location, many followers of the event were worried.
“Lots of people thought that when we moved from the Polo Grounds in Oak Brook to Hamilton Lakes in Itasca we would lose our crowd. But just the opposite happened,” said Joe Feehan, a New Lenox resident and a festival volunteer.
“Last year was the first time the festival was held in Itasca. It was a very hectic time because we were in transition, but now we’re pleased with our prospect for our new space and are excited about this year’s 26th annual Scottish Festival.”
Feehan said the key to growing the festival was to expand its physical space.
“Now we have a bigger field for our heavy athletics, which are very popular, and we expect that this second year in Itasca will work a lot smoother than last year,” he said.
Feehan added that there have been other benefits to moving.
“Before, in our old space, we had parking in a big earthy field, but now we have paved parking,” he said.
“That’s a big deal because in the past we had a few years where it rained a lot and the parking lot turned to mud.”
Feehan who was part of the executive team of the Scottish Festival for the last eight years said he will be walking around this year’s festival on June 15-16 to make sure everything is working OK.
If something isn’t up to par or something breaks down, he’s the one who makes sure it gets fixed.
“I’m going to see to it that everything is running smoothly, but at the same time I’m going to enjoy myself at the festival,” Feehan said.
“There’s so much going on that I hope to take in a lot of events.”
There are children’s activities that include mini golf, crafts, carnival events and the popular Dogs of Scotland presentation.
Women can enjoy the haggis hurling contest, the Highland Dance Stage and the genealogy and history exhibits.
Men really go for the heavy athletics, which include traditional Scottish contests, the caber toss, the 22-pound hammer throw, the sheaf toss and the clachneart (throwing a 16-pound river stone), and the whisky classes.
Families might want to participate in the haggis eating contest, the Celtic Rock Stage, and traditional Scottish cuisine and shopping in the Celtic Marketplace.
The festival highlight is always the closing ceremonies, which offer the parade of clan tartans and the massed bands show.
It’s a spine-tingling showstopper in which 1,000 bagpipers and drummers strut their stuff to grand musical selections that include “Amazing Grace.”
The Scottish Festival is a popular celebration of everything Scottish, but according to Tom Fundarek, a festival volunteer from Tinley Park, one doesn’t have to be Scottish to have a good time at the event.
Fundarek said he will be giving rides on golf carts to people in the parking lot.
“It’s a long way from the parking lot to the ticket counter, so I’ll be picking people up and driving them to the entrance,” he said.
“I’m an ambassador and will be the first person most guests will meet.”
A lot of planning, preparation and effort goes into the Scottish Festival, but there’s a potential problem that’s out of everyone’s control.
“If we get good weather, we’ll have a good turnout and a successful event,” Fundarek said.
“But if it rains it’s a problem. Whenever it rains the field becomes soggy and it’s difficult to present the athletic games, and then it dampens people’s enthusiasm and keeps them away.
“We’re celebrating our Scottish heritage and culture, but we’re also doing this on behalf of the Illinois St. Andrew’s Society charity.
“It’s the oldest charity in Illinois, and it provides elder care services at our Scottish Home.”
Betty Mohr is a local freelance writer.