Celebrating to the kilt

Daily Pilot

Wearing a kilt, suspenders and feathered derby hat, Steven Garza looked every bit the part of a man celebrating his Scottish ancestry Saturday in Costa Mesa.

He had high white socks and a tobacco pipe, and his friend also wore a kilt. Both walked into the Orange County Fairgrounds and headed straight for the closest musical performers.

So how much of the Gardena native's heritage hails from the old country?

"None at all," the 23-year-old Garza said, blowing out a thick puff of smoke. "My family came to this last year. I just like the culture. The friendly openness of it."

The festival, officially known as ScotsFest, is an annual celebration of Scottish and Celtic culture. It brings the entertaining United Scottish Society's Highland Games and Gathering, in which men compete in feats of strength you won't find in your local gym.

On Saturday afternoon a group of burly, thick-armed men could be seen flinging 56-pound weights overhead, trying to clear a rope above them — kind of like a high-jump competition for the strong instead of the nimble.

There's also the hugely popular caber toss, where men see how far they can heave a towering telephone pole.

No matter where you go in the fairgrounds, the air is filled with the sound of bagpipes. This year boasts the largest pipe band contest in event history, organizers said.

It was the meat pies and caber toss that brought Megan Allen and her fiance to Costa Mesa from Palm Springs this weekend, she said.

Allen has been coming to the festival every year since she was a little girl, and this year she and her fiance, Isaac Dickman, a Marine, donned the traditional military garb of Scotland.

"I was raised coming to the fair," Allen said. "I got started knowing my heritage."

The two love the Celtic culture so much (each has a bit of Scottish blood in them), they're planning on having a Celtic wedding and going to Scotland for their honeymoon.

ScotsFest at the fairgrounds runs until 5 p.m. today. Tickets are $5.

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