We spent the end of last week and part of the weekend on our continued search for a home and put in yet another offer (I think we’re up to six or seven– if you haven’t heard about the housing market in Greater Seattle, check out this recent article in the Seattle Times for a taste).
This process has been exhausting, to say the least, so we’ve been combatting our discouragement by spending as much free time as possible exploring the Pacific Northwest.
After our incredible trip to Victoria, BC last weekend, we decided to stay local and explore the area just north of us– Skagit Valley. Home to the annual Tulip Festival, which we JUST missed this year, the area boasts a number of local towns, festivals and wineries/breweries that we have yet to explore.
While waiting for my Starbucks a couple of weeks ago, I saw a poster for the Skagit Valley Highland Games July 11-12 so I thought that would be a good excuse to get out of the house and see a little more of Mt. Vernon. We weren’t in a rush but arrived a little after noon and spent a few house checking out the festivities.
It was hot and sunny so we looked for opportunities to find some shade, but overall we just roamed around and took everything in. It was a reasonably large festival and while there were some of your standard fair food trucks, I was impressed with the number of more ‘authentic’ activities taking place.
We began by the athletics where male and female events were running concurrently. We arrived just as the men were starting the sheaf toss where they use a pitch fork to toss a square bag filled with straw up and over a pole.
The women were already on a weight for height event where they tossed a heavy kettlebell up and over their head, trying to clear a rising poll. It was interesting, and I think the crowd was having just as much fun as the competitors!
Next to the athletics were the sheepdog trials, which I actually found fascinating. They would release four sheep, and the participant and his or her dog would have to work the sheep through a series of obstacles and then into a pen.
Most were able to successfully complete the course in a couple of minutes, but one woman and her dog finished in a minute and a half!
I can’t imagine the training that goes into herding sheep and the relationship you establish with your dog where you can make a few quick whistles and accomplish so much– I was impressed.
We walked through the clan booths, where locals set out ancestry displays or tents dedicated to their own heritage with information, and I sat to watch the dancing competition for a while. I was lost in thought watching, remembering my dance lessons when I studied abroad in Northern Ireland and the night we stayed up all night to take part in a local Ceili dance. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since then– sometimes it breaks my heart that I’ve been away so long.
Aside from the dancing there were a number of other musical performances, from demonstrations on playing the harp to pipe and drum ensembles to main stage fiddling.
I liked that while the overall event was dedicated to the Highlands, the activities were designed to represent all of the Celtic nations. Here are a few pictures:
When we couldn’t take any more of the heat, we headed into town to check out Skagit River Brewery.
We passed it on our way to the festival and it was fairly busy when we arrived. We grabbed some seats at the bar, tried a couple samplers and relaxed with some steamed clams.
I couldn’t believe the wheat beer was bitter– probably Brian’s new favorite wheat beer– and I liked the berry cider more than I expected. The menu had lots of other interesting appetizers I would love to try so hopefully we will be back.
The festival was a nice excuse to get out, and I look forward to exploring Skagit Valley again soon!