Phoenix Scottish Games a feast for the senses - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Phoenix Scottish Games a feast for the senses

February 27th, 2022 development
Phoenix Scottish Games a feast for the senses
Sports and Recreation

By Paul Maryniak, Executive Editor

For 56 years, thousands of people each March have gathered at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix to celebrate their Scottish Heritage.

But starting Friday afternoon, March 4, men in kilts, men and women tossing boulders and stirring marching bands will dominate the landscape of Gilbert Regional Park as the Phoenix Scottish Games come to town for the weekend.

Guys like Ian Lundy and Kevin Conquest can’t wait.

Lundy spent the first 60 years of his life in Scotland before moving to Chandler, where he set up a business called Scottish Genealogy that works primarily with Americans eager to trace their Scottish roots.

Kevin Conquest of Mesa was born and raised in America with Scottish roots on his mother’s side – confessing, “I’m mostly English, but as I like to tell people in the Scottish circles, nobody’s perfect.”

Both men have big roles in the games.

Lundy will be holed up in the genealogy tent with other professionals helping visitors trace their Scottish roots. Conquest will be gloriously attired in his black-feather bonnet, tartan kilt, ornate waistcoat with assorted buckles and badges as he leads bands in a heart-stopping march to the tune of bagpipes and drums.

The games standmay be the largest non-town sponsored event yet at the 272-acre park.

And they will use a good chunk of that real estate as Lundy and Conquest promise a bigger, bolder and more engaging simultaneous series of competitions, entertainment acts and other activities that will more than make up for the loss of the 2021 games to COVID

“I do like the park,” said Conquest, the drum major of the Mesa Caledonia Pipe Band. “The layout is more agreeable to Scottish Highland Games. So, the format that you’re going to see on the field would look very similar to how the Scottish Highland Games will be laid out in Scotland that take place on track-and-field-type arenas, indoor-outdoor tracks and outdoor field. We’re able to lay it out very similar to that.

“Another big draw to Gilbert this year was the amphitheater stage that they have at the park, which was a huge win for the entertainment. The sound on that stage is so impressive, having already done a couple of test runs. It’s just amazing. It was an absolute win for us. It’s also a different part of town, so we stand to open up to a new demographic.”

Not Scottish? No worries, they stressed. Most everyone and anyone will find something to enjoy.

“It’s almost like you’re being immersed in all things Scottish,” Lundy said. “People everywhere are wearing kilts. People are playing the bagpipes. People are dancing. People are competing in various different events. Scottish music is blaring from different clans.”

Added Conquest: “A fantastic show starts off Friday night, also on Saturday and Sunda. You have nonstop entertainment going on all day. …But also you have athletic competitions going on. On the northwest side of the field will be the Highland dancing. People who come to the games, they certainly won’t be bored. there will be something from the minute the gates open to the gate close, and there’s plenty to see and do there.

“I think we have about seven different entertainment acts this year happening on the stage in addition to the five-minute drumming competition on the stage, so that’s going to be pretty exciting.”

For the first time in the Phoenix Scottish Games’ history, a 90-minute “Twilight Tattoo” concert will open the weekend on Friday night.

In this case, we’re not talking about ink on skin. A tattoo concert is a tradition dating back to Europe in the 17th century, when Dutch innkeepers would shout, “doe den tap toe” or “turn off the taps” to alert soldiers on leave that it was time to return to their barracks.

 Over time, that phrase was shortened to “tap toe” and anglicized to “tattoo.”

“As the centuries moved on, the tradition evolved into a what is now an evening pageant of music and marching,” said games spokesman Darryl Toupkin. “These entertaining shows can be found in countries all over the world with the Scots perhaps having perfected the artform.”

 Gates will open March 4 at 5 p.m. with Celtic folk music by The Noble McCoys, followed by Traveler with Scott Jeffers taking the audience through a tour of world music.

At 7 p.m., Tattoo Drum Major Conquest will strike up The 103rd Arizona Regimental Band, The Los Angeles Fifes & Drums, The Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band, vocalist Erica Lue and the Twilight Tattoo Highland Dancers for a 90-minute show.

Over the following two days, guests can wander among the tents each of the 30 Scottish clans will have set up. Or they can watch spectacular tests of strength in the Caber Toss, Sheaf Toss, Hammer Throw and “Putting the Stone” with male and female competitors of all ages from across North America.

Along with interactive displays, the event hosts the Highland Dance Championship and the Desert Southwest Pipe Band Championship.

Then there are performances of traditional folk and bluegrass music with roots in the lowlands and highlands, plus The Wicked Tinkers, Stoney Bank and Christopher Yates in one of the many Four Peaks beer gardens located throughout the festival.

The Celtic Village will offer more than 30 merchants with clothing, music instruments, jewelry, baked goods and other traditional culinary treats such as traditional shortbread cookies and Highland beef dishes.

And what would games called “Scottish” be without Scotch whisky tastings. Even car lovers will find something to gawk at as they vote for their favorite vintage vehicle at the British Car Display and Show while equine enthusiasts can enjoy a Clydesdale horse exhibit.

Organizers have even arranged a visit from the Highland Royal Court, led by Mary Queen of Scots.

Toupkin said Arizona is home to more than 175,000 Scots.

“Everywhere you look you can see deep ties between Arizona and Scotland,” he said. “Douglas, Arizona was named for a Canadian-Scotsman and the Rose Tree Museum in Tombstone features a rose tree grown from a cutting shipped to a young Scottish bride from her family in Scotland in 1885.

The Phoenix Scottish Games are produced by the Caledonian Society of Arizona, the largest Celtic organization in the state, promoting Scottish culture through art, education and athletics. Funds raised at the event supports scholarships to aspiring and professional Highland athletes, musicians and dancers and/or other individuals or organizations whose mission, project or program promotes Scottish heritage.


If you go

What: Phoenix Scottish Games

When: 5-8 p.m. March 4 for the Twilight Tattoo, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. March 5,  9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 6.

Where: Gilbert Regional Park, 3005 E. Queen Creek Road, Gilbert.

Tickets: $15 Friday, $25 single-day admission Saturday or Sunday, special packages also available.