Digging for Roots at the Highland Games

Highland Hootenanny - Crowds gather at this Estes Park Festival to revel in their Scottish and Irish roots. Bagpipes, dances, hammer tossing contests, jousting, beer, whiskey, and lots of plaid attract more than 60,000 people each year. Scottish, Irish, or not, this festival is a rousing good time every september.

August 2003

The United States is the Earth’s great melting pot, a place where hundreds of ethnic, religious, and political groups can coexist and integrate peacefully. Though far from any major port, or easy access to foreign lands, Colorado likewise has a decent mixture of interesting folks from faraway places.

That America is such a tremendous milieu of peoples regularly leaves many citizens in a quandary with regard to their roots. When the family tree demands that you describe yourself in increments of one-sixteenth, it’s tough to not have a wee identity crisis.

I’d long thought I had it figured out. Owning a name comprised of the titles of three Scottish septs (Cameron, Murdoch, and Burns), I thought I could at least label myself Scots-Irish, that handy catch-all title that means you’re pasty white (though often brightly reddened by the Colorado sun), and the ancestors you know about came from Britain or Eire. Yes, I thought I had it all figured out until I went digging for my Scottish roots in Estes Park.