Lyon draws more than 8,000 for Scottish Fest

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published April 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 17, 2013 at 11:04 a.m.
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Chandra Huston/Lyon College

Members of the Lyon College Pipe Band and the Northeast Arkansas Caledonian Pipes and Drums perform at the opening ceremonies of the 34th annual Arkansas Scottish Festival held at Lyon College in Batesville on April 12-14.

— A weekend of balmy spring temperatures —perfect for kilt-wearing — helped Lyon College’s annual Arkansas Scottish Festival draw more than 8,000 visitors to the campus Saturday and Sunday.

Representatives of the college said the turnout was a substantial increase over last year’s festival and was one of the best turnouts since the festival was moved to the center of the campus 10 years ago.

“The festival was established to honor our Scottish and Presbyterian roots,” said Bob Qualls, director of communications. “The first festival was in 1981. Prior to that, there were simplified Highland games for several years.”

The weekend included demonstrations, vendors, music and food, both traditional and not. Whether it was a bagpipe performance or a crawfish boil, there seemed to be a little something for everyone at the event.

Along one side of the festival area, a line of tents named for family clans were filled with photos, charts, crests and tartans.

“I’ve been coming here for the past six or seven years,” said Liz Smith of Rogers, representing the MacKay clan, one of 19 clans represented at the festival.

Attending the Arkansas Scottish Festival in the early ’90s had first piqued her interest in researching her family’s history. Smith now hopes the information at her booth will help others at the fest who are looking to connect to their own history.

Throughout the afternoon, kids ran from booth to booth gathering stamps from each clan for their “passports.”

“It’s a journey through Scotland without ever leaving Batesville,” Smith said.

Smith described the festival atmosphere as an atmosphere she couldn’t find anywhere else. The nearest festivals comparable, Smith said, are in Oklahoma or Missouri.

“It’s a very tight-knit group here,” Smith said. “We keep together on Facebook through the year. I’ve known the families with booths next to mine for years.”

In addition to the clan booths, several bagpipers performed throughout the festival, including the Lyon College Pipe Band, which has been part of the school since 1980.

The band’s director, Jimmy Bell, also served as festival director. Bell and others began planning this year’s festival in fall 2012.

New to the festival this year was a kid-friendly section of inflatable bounce houses and obstacles sponsored by Batesville’s Compass Church and a dog show.

The festival was free to enter. Though the school used to charge a fee, the event has been free for the past several years.

“We decided to offer free admission to bring in larger crowds and make it more attractive to vendors,” Qualls said. “Income from vendors and patrons is used to defray the expenses of the festival.”

Any profit goes to support the Scottish Heritage Program, Qualls said.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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