As we are opening our front doors more often and peeping around them, we are seeing much more sunshine and the winter's chill being chased over the hillsides. It will be a great escape from our homes to enjoy some springtime activities, and a wonderful one awaits us at the l3th annual Scottish Festival and Celtic Gathering on May 2-4 in Bridgeport.
The festival can be found in the Bridgeport City Park located behind the Bridgeport School Complex on Johnson Avenue. Just take the Meadowbrook Mall Exit off I-79, turn right past Bob Evans and look to the left up a hill for Johnson Avenue. Continuing on Johnson, the schools are about a half-mile away.
Scottish traditions will be at their best on Saturday, May 3, when musical and clan activities are at their highest. An admission is charged and once one can look beyond the entrance, eyes will soon be filled with the colors of old Scotland.
Tartan plaids are pleading for attention from every corner, and one will observe a beautifully blended tartan that has been woven especially for West Virginians and named the official West Virginia State Tartan. Ties, scarves, and material featuring the design are available at www.WVTARTAN.com.
The many Scottish Clans await you in a large field filled with nearly 60 tents, each representing a different Scottish surname. If Scottish is in your bloodline, you will probably find your Clan's tent. Most of these family groups have items to display or do some souvenir-selling. Some have maps of Old Scotland where you can find your family's origins. Roaming the field will be a great educational activity for the entire family.
But watch out, because there will also be penned Scottish breed dogs herding sheep, internationally acclaimed Heavy Athletic Events (a forerunner to the Olympics) and pipe and drum units marching from both West Virginia and states beyond.
High noon on Saturday features a combined pipe band, and all the pipers that have been tuning up through the morning will converge on the field to join in a l50-member ensemble. It is an awesome sound.
Weaponry was prominent in feudal times in Scotland, as the Scottish defended their lands, fighting from castles. Some of these swords, hatchets and shields will be on exhibit and medieval chivalry galore can be envisioned.
Foods of native origin are available, with meat pies a specialty. For those who want regular Italian varieties, Philly cheese steak or charcoal-grilled burgers, there will be no disappointment. They even have curly fries!
Several musical groups will perform, including our own West Virginia Highland Dancers. Some Celtic groups will provide concerts playing native instruments as they sing tunes familiar to the Scotch-Irish traditionalists.
The Scottish were some of the first settlers in West Virginia. According to "West Virginia - The Mountain State" by Ambler and Summers, published in l940, one of the first Scotch-Irish settlements in western Virginia extended from Staunton, Va., when 500,000 acres were secured by Benjamen Borden to house l00 immigrant families within l0 years. Among those brought in were the Pattons, McDowells, Alexanders, Moores, Archers, Stuarts and Mulhollons.
In this southern region we find standing today Lewisburg's Old Stone Presbyterian Church, built in l736, and it remains as the oldest church in continuous use West of the Alleghenies. Scottish settlers were well-educated and were responsible for establishing many Presbyterian Churches throughout West Virginia.
This Scottish celebration actually originated from the sponsorship of the First Presbyterian Church in Clarksburg. Sunday's closing service of the weekend takes place at this downtown Clarksburg church, with the Scottish regala as part of the service. The Scottish Heritage Society of North Central West Virginia sponsors the event. More information can be obtained by calling 304-534-3737 or using www.scots-westvirginia.org.
In closing, let us consider the castles of Scotland and the protection they offered to many who had enemies and needed to surround themselves with moats to stave off warring peoples.
Our communities today do not have these defense systems, nor do we have the ill will many of these barbarians ruthlessly supported. It is good for us to remember in this Easter season why civilization has moved more toward peace and civility. It may be because people have taken time to remember the story of the cross and passed it on to family members who followed.
The Bailey's (Scotch) in my family tree certainly educated their children about religious issues, and every Sunday was spent with a horse-drawn wagon taking the entire 11-member family to worship at a little country church down the road.
Sometimes, we get too obsessed with here and now. We forget our family history and what brought us to have current-day success. It would be good in this season of reflection to remember those who have passed before us. What gave them strength and hope?
When Easter church bells ring, as they have for generations before us, they toll for you and me. Hitch-up that wagon - share in the joy of this blessed time.