Get your kilt on |

Get your kilt on

Highlands dancers perform and compete in the Colorado Scottish Festival, a 52-year-old event that will be held in Snowmass Village for the first time this weekend.
Colorado Scottish Festival / Courtesy photo |

If you go ...

What: Colorado Scottish Festival

When: Friday through Sunday

Where: Events on July 31 on Snowmass Village Mall and Base Village; Aug. 1-2 in Town Park

How Much: Tickets $20 for adults; $15 for seniors; $10 for children; free for children younger than 7. Purchase tickets online or at gate. For full schedule or to purchase tickets, visit

The mountains of Snowmass might look more like the hills of Scotland when hundreds of men and women in kilts arrive for the Colorado Scottish Festival.

A 52-year-old event, the festival is being held in Snowmass for the first time this weekend, July 31 through Aug. 2. Yes, there will be historical re-enactors in traditional garb as well as individuals who just like to show off their heritage, but there will also be games, music, artisans selling their wares and dancers at the festival in Town Park.

“It’ll be more like being in Scotland than where we’ve been for 25 years in the metro area,” said Susan Thornton, who with her husband has been the festival’s organizer during that time, when it was held in Highland Ranch. “And it’s so beautiful up there, of course.”

The Thorntons are members of the Denver and District Pipe Band — he is a drum major and she plays the pipes — and the festival is a competition venue for bagpipe bands, so it’s a great chance to hear some of the best such musicians in the western United States, Susan said. And music is nonstop throughout the festival, from its opening night in Base Village and the Mall to Celtic music and competitions all day on the festival grounds to this week’s free summer concert on Fanny Hill, a performance by Celtic rock band Swagger on Saturday, Aug. 1.

It’s also a stop for competitors in dancing and Highland Games athletic events. Men and women compete in games like the caber toss, lifting and throwing a log about the size of a telephone pole; the “Clachneart,” which is similar to modern-day shotput; and other feats of strength all based on traditional festive competitions that have been played for centuries.

The festival, which will take over both sides of the playing fields in Town Park this weekend, is a sort of village in its own right, with booths of artisans selling craft goods, a genealogy tent and a special area for dogs, who are welcome as long as they’re on a leash. The grounds will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1-2.

In fact, there are a lot of activities for dogs and their owners. Under the umbrella of “Dogs of the British Isles,” breeds including Airedales, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Irish setters, collies and many more are invited to participate in a parade each day and rest in the dog tent. The Eagle County Animal Shelter, Colorado Animal Rescue and Rifle Animal Shelter will also be on hand with dogs.

The “Midday Ceremonies” are one of the more popular things to see, Susan said.

“We have the parade of the clans and the Dogs of the British Isles, the Renaissance Scots (historical re-enactors), all the pipe bands — there’ll be like 100 pipers and drummers marching across the field, and they’ll all play together,” she said. “It’s quite a spectacle.”

Children’s activities, including a chance for them to participate in the Highland Games with lighter equipment, are a big focus of the festival, too.

The Thorntons and all of the people that help make the festival happen are volunteers.

“We’re told it’s the largest festival in the U.S. to be run by volunteers,” said Susan. “It’s a labor of love.”

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