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Games, pipers, food and spirits highlight Scottish festival

Whether you take the high road or the low road isn't important as long as the road leads to Altamont and the 29th annual Capital District Scottish Games this weekend.

Much more than an athletic competition, the Scottish Games is a full Celtic festival of arts, music, dance, tartans, history, food and fun hosted by the Champion Schenectady Pipe Band, an organization active in the Capital District since 1917.

The games have been a part of the region since 1939, but it wasn't until 1977 that the Schenectady band took over the event, making it the success it's today, said event publicity chairman Bob Gordon, adding that the games are the largest Celtic festival of art and competition in the Northeast.

The festival takes place Saturday, Sept. 2, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 3, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Altamont Fairgrounds.

Heading up activities, the Northeastern U.S. Highland Athletics Championships take place Saturday with amateur athletics scheduled for Sunday. Participating athletes will compete in throwing the caber, a piece of timber resembling a utility pole, or the sheaf, a burlap bag filed with 16 pounds of hay that is tossed over a bar using a pitch fork. Other events include throwing hammers and large stones for both distance and height.

For piping fans, The Eastern United States Pipe Band Association's Grade two pipe and band competition highlights activities on Sunday. For traditional Celtic dance fans, the Capital District Country Dancers perform Saturday and the Braemar Highland dancers perform Sunday.

Featured musical performers this year include the traditional Brigadoons, as well as local favorites, the McKrells on Saturday and a taste of modern Celtic music by Mactalla Mor on Sunday. Canadian Celtic rock favorites Hunting McLeod and folk balladeer Colin Grant-Adams appear both days. In addition, writer and historian Rob Roy McGregor will again present "History of the Sword," while the Scottish Military Association brings the past to life before your eyes both days.

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