A chorus of bagpipes spread across Thomas Point Beach and Campground this weekend as thousands of people from New England and beyond converged on Brunswick for the 43rd annual Maine Highland Games and Scottish Festival.

The celebration, organized by the St. Andrews, Maine, featured a non-stop line-up of traditional Scottish athletics, high jumps and pipe races, plus sheepdog demonstrations, historical re-enactors and more.

“We try to offer something for everyone,” said George Newell, the group’s president. “My motto is, ‘You’re welcome, Scottish or not.’

The celebration began on Friday evening with a Ceilidh, a traditional Gaelic gathering of music and dancing.

The line of cars waiting to enter the campground Saturday morning for the games’ opening ceremony stretched over half a mile. Delegations from dozens of clan organizations took turns shouting celebratory battle cries, before the Vice President of the St. Andrews of Maine, Jimmy Rodden to discuss the story behind the event.

Although modern highland games date back to the 19th century, they have their roots centuries deeper in the past. The Maine Games, part of a tradition that has spread across the globe, gives those with ties to Scotland a chance to gather and celebrate their shared cultural background, according to Newell.

“We do this because we love our heritage,” he said. “We must remember our past.”

The Scots Maine Ulster Project, which had two tents set up at the festival on Saturday, is particularly committed to uncovering that past, said president Rebecca Graham. The group researches and preserves the history of immigrants from Northern Ireland, many of whom originally came from Scotland.

Maine, which according to census data has the most residents per capita who claim Scottish or Scots-Irish ancestry in the United States, continues to feel the presence of Northern Irish settlers who began arriving in 1718, she said.

“(Being) headstrong, not being impressed by big credentials, being impressed by character — those are things that are deeply Maine,” Graham said. “They are also deeply Northern Irish.”

Brenda Aldrich and Doris Barratt of Clan Macnachtan traveled from Walpole, New Hampshire, hoping to discover more relatives. The pair have attended similar events for more than 40 years, including six this summer alone.

“Once the pipes start playing in the spring, we’re ready to pack up and go,” Barratt said. “I don’t know what it is. I think it’s in your blood.”

The youngest in the group were Brian and Karen Urquhart of North Andover, Massachusetts, who were attending their first Highland Games. Brian Urquhart said he made the trip to learn more about his heritage and enjoy musical acts such as the Seán Heely Band.

“There’s a great variety of food and entertainment and nice shady camping on a hot day,” Urquhart said. “It’s scary.”

Athletes participating in traditional events such as the sheaf throw, stone throw and hammer throw were far from their ancestral lands. But the sounds of the pipes were almost enough to transport Newell to the Highlands.

“One day I will go to Scotland,” he said. “But that’s a bit of Scotland in Maine.”

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