The 57th annual Long Island Scottish Festival and Highland Games takes over Old Westbury Gardens Saturday for a day filled with family fun, intense competition and bagpipe bands.
Festival chairperson Andrew McInnes of Mineola said the festival moved around Long Island for the first dozen years before settling in Old Westbury Gardens 200 acres.
“It was a growing place and a growing event,” McInnes said. “That place is so beautiful, so if people get bored with the festival — if that’s possible — they can walk around the gardens.”
The day is filled with typical festival events, like children’s games, a petting zoo and Scottish vendors as well as the highland games portion of the event featuring the caber toss, putting the stone and tossing the sheath.
“I have a lot of people call me about the caber toss,” McInnes said. “It’s one of the unique events you don’t see in the tri-state area.”
The caber toss involves flipping a long, narrow log end over end directly in front of you.
“You’re throwing a log over a river so you can walk across it, so you want to throw it directly in front of you at 12 o’clock,” McInnes said. “If you throw it at 1 o’clock or 2 o’clock, that will still work, but if you throw it at 3 o’clock, it’s going to land in the water.”
McInnes said not only the weight of the 120-pound log is a challenge, but the ability to balance the narrow 18-foot log can trip up novices.
Putting the stone is similar to shot put but with an irregularly shaped rock, and tossing the sheath means using a pitch fork to throw a bag of hay over a high vertical bar. McInnes said the bar is typically about two stories high and is raised until only one contestant can clear the bar.
Kilts are not required for competitors, but McInnes said it’s always more fun to commit to the traditions.
McInnes said there is also a children’s version of the caber toss with a piece of PVC pipe instead of the log.
Parking for the festival’s shuttle service has moved this year, McInnes said, because of the PGA’s Northern Trust tournament at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury the same weekend. This year, parking will be at the Wheatley School on Bacon Road.
For the family, McInnes said there would be pony rides, children’s story time, and a dog parade in the afternoon. Two stages also offer entertainment throughout the day with singing, highland dancing and demonstrations.
“It’s not just a Scottish festival. It’s a family festival,” McInnes said. “We have a lot of things for the family to do, especially for kids.”