The city of Sherman will briefly become the Scottish highlands next weekend as the city hosts the Sherman Celtic Festival and Highland Games. The first-year event, which is being held by the Sherman Pipes & Drums band, will benefit the Texas Scottish rite Hospital for Children and local police and fire associations.
The festival will feature more than 60 vendors, music and dance from Scotland and Ireland, a Scottish clan village and a Celtic Dog Breed parade. The event will also feature a tournament of highland games and sports that will test the strength and coordination of more than 50 competitors.
Sherman Police Detective Rob Ballew, who coordinator for the event, said he came up with the idea for the festival through his work with the ceremonial band over the past three years. The band features members of the Sherman Police and Fire-Rescue dressed in kilts.
“It has grown over that time as we have developed out skill sets,” Ballew said, describing the band. “Bagpipes obviously are not an easy instrument to play.”
Ballew said he also took inspiration from other events including the North Texas Irish Festival and the Texas Scottish Festival, both held in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. In particular, The North Texas Irish Festival attracts more than 60,000 visitors to Dallas’ Fair Park for three days each year.
“Our area has a huge population that can draw a connection to ancestry from Irish or Scottish immigration,” Ballew said, noting how bluegrass and country music has its roots in Celtic music. “Who isn’t intrigued by bagpipes? Like them or hate them, people are at least curious.”
“Many common last names descend from there and we don’t even know it,” Sherman City Council Member Shawn Teamann said Wednesday, describing Celtic ancestry.
Among the larger attractions for the event will be the highland games tournament. Ballew said festival organizers had to cut off registration at 52 people due to the time constraints. If the event is expanded to two days in 2018, it will allow for more competitors.
The games will include traditional contests like the hammer throw and the caber toss, where competitors attempt to toss and flip a long wooden tree trunk. Despite the reliance on strength, Ballew said it also required finesse and technique.
“It does take a certain level of coordination to do the spins and the toss,” he said. “You have to have a certain level of coordination to balance a 20-foot tree that weighs 140 pounds.”
Teamann, who is coordinating a 5K and fun run for the event, said he has done some of the events, but wasn’t sure that he had the strength needed for the caber toss. In the event that the caber is too large for any of the competitors to move, organizers historically will cut off lengths until they are able to turn it.
With the scale of the event, Teamann said he hoped it will increase tourism for the area. With this, he hopes that visitors to the area will stay and visit local shops and restaurants while they are in town. In the long term, Teamann said he hopes the event will grow to the point that it is something that becomes part of the city’s identity.
“It is very unique and sets up a character for Sherman like what they have in Muenster,” he said, describing the city’s annual Germanfest.
Others hope that the large number of bands performing at the event will help bring in crowds. Michael Logan, who has worked audio for the NTIF for several years, will be coordinating the music for this year’s event. For Sherman’s festival Logan was able to bring in 12 bands that will perform across three stages throughout the day.
“In my opinion, Irish music is something everyone can enjoy,” Logan said. “I’ve never heard anyone say that they dislike it.”
The performers for this year’s festival will include student musicians as well as traveling artists. Logan said some of the performers will be playing songs and genres that are familiar to listeners, but with a bit of a Celtic twist. As an example, Logan said he was able to book Cleghorn, a Celtic rock band.
“They have a lot of traditional instruments infused into what we’d consider a normal rock band,” he said.
Still for others, the event will be an opportunity to increase cultural awareness, and meet people with a similar heritage. Local Realtor Bill French helped organize the event and will be representing Clan MacDuff. The festival will have a gathering of 13 different clans who will share information about each family line.
French said he first became interested in his ancestry after mapping his family tree about a decade ago. Since then, he has met close to 60 other members of Clan MacDuff, he said.
“I think Celtic Ancestry is very common,” he said. “This is all about fellowship and genealogical research.”
For the Scottish village, representatives for each class will set up a tent and offer history lessons on the family and the culture. Through this, French said he hoped that people will have a better understanding of this culture.
“It is not quite like reading history,” he said. “For a few hours you get to live the history.”