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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Celtic Festival Report

Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

Yesterday, I attended the CELTIC FLING AND HIGHLAND GATHERING in Pennsylvania.

In past years, I have attended the CELTIC FESTIVAL OF SOUTHERN MARYLAND and the NATIONAL TARTAN DAY celebration in Alexandria, Virginia, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I went with two other residents from the Soldiers' Home, "Gunny", a retired United States Marine Corps master gunnery sergeant, and "Chief", a retired United States Navy chief petty officer.

All three of us wore our tartan kilts, with short-sleeve khaki shirts, and with our military ribbons pinned to our shirts.

"Gunny" and "Chief" wore pith helmets, while I wore my beret.

"Chief" drove us in his car, and because "Gunny" and "Chief" had never seen one used, and both were considering whether to purchase one, I brought along my Tom Tom Go 510 portable GPS device.

The only difficulty in the drive was a massive traffic jam in Maryland, due to highway construction.

Since the "Chief" is new to the Soldiers' Home, I explained that this type of thing is normal for the District of Columbia megalopolis, and that he should always carry plenty of food and water in his car, because some Washington, D.C. traffic jams can leave you stranded, unable to move, for many hours.

As we drove through Pennsylvania, both "Gunny" and "Chief" commented on the healthy appearance of the corn fields we were passing, and we all were impressed by the well maintained Amish and Mennonite farms, homes, and communities.

With the guidance from my portable GPS device, we eventually arrived at the Celtic Fling and Highland Games.

Prior to obtaining our tickets, we were screened by security guards, who were checking the contents of all bags.

It was at that point, that I commented, "I think we should leave.", which prompted a reaction from the female security guard, but "Gunny" and "Chief" had their backs to me and could not hear what I was saying.

Yes, others think this indignity is justified by the violence in our world, but I emphatically hold the opposite opinion.

This is still supposed to be the United States of America, and you do NOT acquire safety and security by compromising on individual liberty.

Security did let us keep our sgian dubhs, but wrapped duct tape around them.

As far as I'm concerned, that alone, is sufficient reason to never attend the Celtic Fling and Highland Games in Pennsylvania.

But, it gets worse.

The entrance fee at the Celtic Festival of Southern Maryland was fifteen dollars ($15.00), and the ceilidh was free, but the entrance fee to attend the Celtic Fling and Highland Games was twenty-five dollars ($25.00), and admission to the ceilidh costs extra.

Very few clans were represented, and the location of clan tents was not listed in any information, event programs, or signs.

I think I could count the total number of clan tents on the fingers of one hand, and those were VERY hard to find, being hidden way at the back of the festival grounds.

The biggest disappointment was that my own Clan Henderson did not have a tent there.

But, as the day went on, I could see why.

Unlike the Celtic Festival of Southern Maryland, which is very spread out, the Celtic Fling and Highland Games is far more concentrated, which means you're continually listening to amplified rock music, no matter where you are.

When I'm attending a Celtic or Highland event, I prefer traditional music.

I didn't hear even one single Scottish pipe band the entire day.

We did encounter a few isolated pipe band members wandering around, but never saw or heard them perform.

I did enjoy watching some Irish step dancing competition, but never saw any Highland dancers.

I also enjoyed seeing all the pretty ladies, some of whom weren't wearing a whole lot, making my view even more pleasurable!

There were (I think) only three (03) dogs at the festival, and I like seeing the furry critters, so I wish more critters were allowed in.

When folks can bring their pets (as long as they have friendly dispositions and are properly controlled), it improves everything.

One of the sad things about all three festivals, is that you never see any display of the Confederate battle flag, which in years past, was always part of the ceremonies.

Because we were wearing military attire, we encountered numerous other veterans and active duty personnel, who came up to greet us.

Thus, we three were visibly prominent ambassadors for the Soldiers' Home.

We were surprised to meet one of the staff from the Soldiers' Home, Gregory Moore.

The day was sunny and hot, and "Gunny" and "Chief" were enjoying their pints, revelling in all the attention, and smooching with the ladies.

But, since I don't imbibe, and knowing the effects of alcohol, I was rather uncomfortable observing all this.

Later, as we wandered down the hill to see a performance, "Chief" had a bad fall, tumbling over some benches.

Since he is about to turn eighty-one years old, this really concerned me.

He insisted he was alright, but as we walked along, a lady came up and pointed out that the chief was bleeding.

He had badly scraped his arm, but refused to seek medical care.

It got worse, as the chief staggered backwards, nearly falling again.

He needed assistance, but kept refusing it.

Fortunately, an Emergency Medical Technician approached, and he was able to persuade the chief to go to the First Aid Station.

They bandaged him and kept him for observation for a while, then came out to talk to me.

The chief had low blood pressure and needed to eat.

They persuaded him to hand over his car keys to me, and told me I would be permitted to drive to the First Aid Station to pick up "Gunny" (who by now, had also fallen) and "Chief".

I had an awful time finding my way out of the festival, because I was unfamiliar with the area, and didn't know how to get to the gate where we first entered.

Then, I had to hunt for the car, which because of it's Oklahoma license plates and large "NAVY" bumper sticker, was more easily located.

Then came the worst part.

The medics had said a parking lot attendant could tell me how to drive to the First Aid Station.

But, the day being mostly over, there were no evident parking lot attendants, as I drove around and around and around, getting more and more frustrated and worried.

Finally, I saw a speck of orange way off in the distance, and headed for it, knowing it was the orange safety vest worn by the parking lot attendants.

He pointed out which direction I should go, and spoke with someone on the two way radio.

Even with his directions, I still got lost, but it became easier to eventually find the correct route.

I picked up "Gunny" and "Chief", and we began our return journey, guided by my portable GPS device.

We stopped at a restaurant, and "Chief" treated us to supper.

But first, I had to go to the restroom and wash up, having gotten "Chief's" blood all over my hands.

"Gunny" and "Chief" both ate breakfasts of eggs, hash browns, bacon, and ham, while I ate spaghetti and meatballs.

It was a restaurant where I had to ASK (twice!) for a glass of water with my meal.

During the meal, because "Chief" is new to this area, and I was driving his car, I suggested we top off his fuel tank before we got back to the Soldiers' Home, and in fact, I suggested he should top it off before entering Washington, D.C., because the city is so dangerous, that I prefer not to ever stop for any reason.

We talked about the new resident's safety manual that had recently been distributed, with its advice that Soldiers' Home residents store food, drinking water, and medication in their individual rooms.

"Chief" had difficulty understanding why that was necessary, but I told him of my own previous experiences with water being unavailable at the Soldiers' Home, or both water and air being contaminated, and of the major riots that had happened, one of which I personally witnessed.

We all three wished the Soldiers' Home was located in a safer area.

As we drove along, I talked about my firm belief in the benefits of defensive driving, including a survival tactic of always having enough room between myself and the nearest vehicle, that I could pull out and escape in a life or death emergency.

That literally can make a huge difference in the District of Columbia, especially if someone starts shooting.

Late that night, we arrived back at the Soldiers' Home, exhausted, but safe.

Having witnessed the demonstration of my Tom Tom GO 510, both "Gunny" and "Chief" were now convinced that purchasing a portable GPS device would be well worth the money.

I will never again attend the Celtic Fling and Highland Games in Pennsylvania.

As far as my own experience with Celtic festivals goes, the one in Pennsylvania is totally bogus.

Thank you.

John Robert "SAIGON" Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

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