HomeOregon NewsThe Portland Highland Games in Oregon

The Portland Highland Games in Oregon

Portland, Oregon – Some of Scotland’s rich culture comes to the Northwest with the Portland Highland Games in Oregon. These games are not just an event; they’re a testament to the enduring legacy of Scottish heritage and its resonance even across the oceans.

Portland Highland Games in Oregon: A Celebration of Scottish Traditions

Established in 1960, the Portland Highland Games Association has been pivotal in keeping the spirit of the Highland Games alive in Portland. The games, which typically occur annually over two weekends in June and July, attract attendees who are eager to immerse themselves in Scottish culture. The first Oregon Scottish Games, held in 1952 and sponsored by Sir James McDonald, the British Consul, proved so popular that they became a recurring, much-anticipated event.

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The Portland Highland Games are a multisensory experience. Attendees can enjoy the stirring sounds of Scottish pipe bands, the skillful playing of bagpipers and drummers, and the graceful movements of dancers and fiddlers. These games are a unique Scottish experience right in Oregon, drawing both locals and visitors alike.

More Than Just Games

Beyond the music and dance, the games are a gathering spot for athletes, both professional and amateur. They compete in traditional Scottish sports, showcasing their strength and skill. Musicians, dancers, and even working dogs also participate, making the Portland Highland Games a diverse and inclusive event.

This festival is more than just a celebration; it’s a bridge connecting the local Highland Games associations with the broader community. It’s an opportunity for people of all ages to engage with and appreciate a piece of Scotland’s rich cultural tapestry.

Roots in Ancient History

The Highland Games, a tradition that dates back centuries, are believed to have originated in Ireland around 2000 BC, later spreading to Scotland. The first historical reference in Scotland dates to the time of King Malcolm III, who summoned men to race up Craig Choinnich, seeking the fastest runner to be his royal messenger.

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Over the centuries, the games have evolved significantly. They now encompass a wide range of activities, including piping, drumming, dancing, and Scottish heavy athletics. These games, largely popularized during the Victorian era, have retained echoes of their historical roots, especially in the heavyweight events.

The Highland Games even played a role in the revival of the modern Olympic Games. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee, was inspired by a display of Highland games he witnessed at the Paris Exhibition in 1889.

Today, Highland Games are celebrated not just in Scotland but globally, wherever there’s a significant Scottish diaspora. These games are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture, particularly that of the Scottish Highlands. The Cowal Highland Gathering, known as the Cowal Games, is the largest such event in the world, held in Dunoon, Scotland, every August.

Booker Whitfield



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