Visitors to the City of Radford on Saturday, Oct. 21 will get a taste of Scots-Irish culture as the 21st Highlanders Festival returns with a full menu of music, dance, athletic games, sheepherding and more than 50 craft and food vendors.
Set in Bisset Park along a beautiful stretch of the New River, the festival has become a major draw in the fall season for the City of Radford and Radford University, which partner to put on the special event that commemorates the Scottish and Irish influence on the early settlement of southwest Virginia.
This year that influence will be apparent with SYR, a Celtic Folk-Rock group from Columbia, S.C., who will perform on the Gazebo Main Stage at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Pronounced “sire”, the group says it “blends the members’ rock backgrounds to create powerful songs with themes like battle, love, loss, heritage and victory.” Band founder Kyle MacCallum also honors the language of ancient Scotland by including lyrics and songs in Gaelic.
The Pipers Club, a Roanoke-based bagpipe quartet, also will perform on the Main stage.
Another major component of the festival each year is the athletic competition that some historians believe can be traced back to the 11th century in Scotland. Male and female competitors, dressed in kilts, will show their skills in such popular events as the caber and sheaf tosses; the stone put, similar to the shot put, and the Scottish hammer throw. Chad Clark, a veteran competitor in strongman and powerlifting competitions, is directing the festival’s Tom Raisbeck Memorial games with three 12-athlete divisions. The competition gets underway at 9 a.m.
Rounding out the daylong schedule will be a diversity of performances and activities:
· The Radford University Highlanders and the Virginia Highlands pipe and drum bands kicks off the event at 10 a.m. with individual and a massed band performance, which includes the march of the Scottish Clans and athletes.
· The Central Fine Arts Academy will perform on the Community Stage from noon to 1 p.m., and West End, an Indie/folk/alternative band will perform from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Both groups are from Radford. PanJammers, an award-winning steel drum orchestra based in Blacksburg, will entertain festivalgoers from 3 to 4 p.m.
· The Braveheart 5K Run/Walk gets underway at 10 a.m. along the riverfront in Bisset Park followed by a free run for children. Registration fee for the run is $25, and runners can register between 9 and 9:45 a.m. or on ItsYourRace.com. Run About Sports and Carilion Clinic are co-sponsoring the event, which benefits the American Heart Association.
·A special children’s area will feature traditional activities, such as a Spinning Scotsman Ball Toss, Scottish Kilt-making and Dundee Distance Stone Throw as well as large inflatable bouncers, including a castle.
For the first time since the early years of the Festival, a Scotch and Ale Social will be held on Friday, Oct. 20 at Nesselrod Bed and Breakfast in Radford. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com.
Several local restaurants are also celebrating the weekend with everything from traditional Octoberfest fare at BT’s to a Tap Takeover with Highland Brewing Company at Macado’s.
For a complete list of accommodations and restaurants, see VisitRadford.com or for information about the festival call 831- 6255 or visit Radford.edu/festival.