FLORENCE – The 26th Annual Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival, held this year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 20 in Look Park, Florence, has grown from humble beginnings in Blandford to becoming the second largest Scottish festival In New England, and the only one in Massachusetts.
The first year of the festival, which was intended to be a one-time event to benefit the restoration of the town’s historic White Church, was held in 1994 at the Blandford Fairgrounds. Continuing on due to popular demand, the festival outgrew the space after five years, moving first to Stanley Park in Westfield, and then in 2004 to Look Park in Florence.
The Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival is now a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization whose purpose is to promote the Scottish culture, to raise funds toward local non-profit organizations and to award Scottish cultural scholarships for Highland dancing and piping.
Blandford resident Peter Langmore, who has chaired the festival for the past 20 years, said the festival still has strong local connections to Blandford, which was founded in 1735 by Scots-Irish Settlers, and to Westfield. For example, the Blandford Fire Department will be on hand to provide EMT and first aid services, he said.
The Festival also donates all profits from the event to both the Forum House in Westfield and River Valley Counseling Center in Holyoke. “Last year, we were able to give each organization $15,000 – a pretty significant amount for any non-profit to be able to donate,” Langmore said.
Asked what the Forum House has been able to do with the donation, representative Sally English said Forum House, a program of Viability Inc., is an accredited clubhouse and as such operates on consensus decision making.
“This means that all members (the people who receive services) and staff have a say in decisions made by the clubhouse, including how we spend our donations! Using this model, our members are empowered to think about what will benefit our program and learn about budgeting. In the past, the donation has been used to purchase bicycles, install an automatic door to increase our accessibility, purchase a new photocopier, and support members in pursuing education,” English said.
“Our members and staff have been volunteering for nearly 15 years at this event and it is something that people looks forward to every year. Our members set-up tents the day before the event and we run the pub, selling cups, tickets, and water, the day of the event,” English said, adding, “One of the goals of our program is to support our members in being involved in the community and developing positive relationships. This event allows our members to do both; we are involved in something fun and meaningful and in working together to complete the tasks we get to really know one another.”
“They provide many volunteers on the day before and day of the Festival, to help with setup and to run the Pub. We could not put on this Festival without their help, and that of other volunteers from River Valley Counseling Center in Holyoke,” Langmore said.
This year, the festival will have an unprecedented 31 pipe bands with over 700 pipers competing and marching at opening ceremonies. There will also be ten Drum Majors competing at the festival.
The family fun event also includes children’s athletic games and a water spray park. Many Clans and a genealogist will be present to assist in tracing festival-goers Scottish ancestry. Vendors will be offering a variety of Scottish foods and imports, while beautiful Celtic harp music of the Pioneer Valley Harpers’ Guild will be played throughout. Learn about spinning and weaving from the Weavers’ Guild of Springfield, and relive history with the Historic Highlanders.
For 2019, Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival presents world class Celtic music in the Ceilidh tent from 9:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Featured artists Enter the Haggis, “artan Terrors, Albannach, Screaming, Charlie Zahm” and the Northeast Scottish band Shindig will present music ranging from sweet, pure song and boisterous ballads all the way to fiery fiddling and full-blown Celtic rock & roll; tribal drum, and comedy.
Whether sitting in the Ceilidh Tent watching the show, quenching your thirst in the Celtic Pub with local microbrews provided by New City Brewery, Easthampton, or just having a picnic on the grass nearby, plan on enjoying great live Celtic music all day long, Langmore said.
Tickets for the festival are $18.00, Children 6-12, $5.00, and Children under 6are free. The event is rain or shne. For more information, visitglasgowlands.org.