One of the oldest and largest festivals in California, the Sacramento Valley Scottish Games & Festival, held in Woodland at the Yolo County Fairgrounds, is April 27-28.
The Sacramento Valley Scottish Games and Festival is the main yearly event the Caledonian Club of Sacramento hosts, which draws up to 20,000 people each year. This fun, family event includes Scottish clans, competitions, music, dance, live history, children’s activities, animals, vendors and more.
Blessed with talented dancers and musicians who work hard to hone their craft to bring joy to others, Welsh who sells advance tickets and mans the gates at the fairgrounds said, the festival is a showcase of a diverse and magical culture.
“I love the people, their values and the music of this diverse and magical culture that is showcased in the Scottish Games. I love that it is a family-friendly event where you’ll find something for every age to enjoy – from the children’s area and youth caber to Celtic fiddles and harps – to Celtic rock – to bagpipes – Celtic animals – to learning Ceilidh (pronounced kaylee) dancing – to historical re-enactors,” she said.
Locally Welsh belongs to the Caledonian Club of Sacramento where she serves as Vice Chief, which means she planned the Tartan Ball last year. She sells pre-sale tickets and recruits volunteers. She also belongs to the Daughters of Scotia and she makes scones for the tea-room at the Games.
To her neighbor, Gordon Scott, whose involvement with the games go back to about 1985, “taking tickets and most things in between,” he said he’s a “sucker” for the games. “Once you get roped in (as a volunteer), you stay in,” he said.
In 1973, Scott went traveled to Ireland, where he decided to buy a kilt. But it wasn’t until years later when he and his wife partook in Scottish country-dance after her coworker who was the chief of the Gaelic club said ‘you have to do this.’ “We went there and enjoyed that,” he said, meeting some fun people along the way.
Like Scott, it was through Scottish Country dancing that Welsh learned so much about Celtic music and became friends with some amazingly dancers and musicians.
“What a huge blessing,” Welsh said, adding that one of her best friends is from Dunblane, Scotland. “She generously shared so much of her culture not only with me, but with everyone,” she said.
Because Welsh loved the music so much, she published a newsletter called “Celtic is Happening” for about five years. The publication promoted Celtic Musicians who performed up and down the coast and in the Central Valley. “I never pretended to know anything…but I sure knew who to refer anyone to who wanted to know more. It was actually through my subscribers that I knew people in Sacramento before we moved here,” she said. One of those subscribers is the editor of an online Celtic Calendar found on the Caledonian Club website, www.saccallie.org.
When Welsh and her husband Rich came to Sacramento in 2006, she joined the Caledonian Club right way. Rich is a genealogist and works every year at the games in Woodland at the genealogy desk. Through genealogy, he discovered that he, too, is Scottish.
“However, I don’t expect to see him in a kilt anytime soon,” Welsh jokes.
Scott loves how the games have been shared through generations. “I am now seeing young adults with children. I saw them competing in piping and dance and their kids now are competing in those events,” he said.
“I probably get a get kick out of youngest highland dancers. They don’t have the steps down, but they’re out there doing their thing. Seeing them progress each year — it’s always a thrill,” Scott said.
Welsh loves sharing the passion and dedication of everyone involved, whether you’re a piper, highland dancer, athlete, Scottish Country Dancer, fiddler, “Clannie”, organizer, vendor, re-enactor or volunteer. “It takes every talent and skill-set to make this event .. this “Brigadoon” happen.
And everyone is a volunteer. No one is taken for granted.
“We are blessed with talented dancers and musicians who work hard to hone their craft to bring joy whatever performance venue where they appear,” said Welsh.
Working on a Scottish Games committee is a supreme learning and personal growth experience, said Welsh.
“I love working and forging relationships with people who didn’t know they could move that mountain until after it was moved. I love that we bring, in modern times, an event that has gone on for much longer that 137 years to this generation. I love when they (the youth) carry some element of it forward. Although we are ‘Brigadoon’ for three days, we bring these same values with us to our jobs and community,” said Welsh.
Welsh’s father (USAF, Ret) and mother (the Irish side) introduced Welsh to her Scottish heritage in 1986 at the Caledonian Club of San Francisco Games and Gathering, Santa Rosa. (That event currently takes place in Pleasanton, CA on Labor Day week end). Both of her dad’s parents came from Old Cumnock (Ayreshire), Scotland in the late 1880’s. They settled in Birch Run, Michigan. She was Sara Kerr; he was Robert Arthur. Welsh joined Clan MacArthur at the games in 1986.
In 1993, Welsh joined the Campbell Highland Games committee (San Jose). For that organization she did sponsorships, publicity, program advertising sales, coordinated volunteers for the entire event and wrapped her 10-year tenure on the Campbell Highland Games Committee as Chieftain (Executive Director). In 1993 Welsh also started Scottish Country Dancing and joined the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society – SF Branch. Concurrently she served as Secretary of the South Bay Scottish Society, ultimately becoming the Chief of SBSS.