The QUEEN MARY, proudly built by Scottish craftsmen along the River Clyde, will host a gathering of the clans once again on February 16 – 17, 2013, when ScotsFest returns to the iconic vessel berthed in Long Beach, California. This will be the 20th annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which has become the longest continuously running event to be held at the ship. This year, for the first time, it has been renamed ScotsFest.
This extravaganza of “plaid pride” will feature whisky and beer tasting; athletic competitions such as the caber toss; sword-dancers and bagpipers competing in events of international importance; live sheep-herding demonstrations and the opportunity to immerse oneself fully in Scottish culture and cuisine. After working up an appetite watching the cute wooly sheep, try the haggis along with some neeps and tatties. It’s not bad!
To kick off ScotsFest this year, the QUEEN MARY hosted an entertaining and informative preview event in the Royal Salon, formerly the first class smoking room. Getting things started, the head chef arrived, accompanied by a bagpiper, for the presentation of the haggis. A light lunch was served including delicious salmon with capers as an appetizer, meat pies, the aforementioned traditional delicacies and a beautiful cream dessert served in a glass. To accompany the cuisine, a tasting of five different Scotch whiskys were offered, from the MacAllan Fine Oak Series and their aged Highland Park label to the popular Black Grouse blended Scotch.
The spirits lifted everyone’s spirits for wonderful presentations of Scottish dancing, descriptions of the ancient origins of many sporting events and a demonstration of the proper wearing of a kilt consisting of yards and yards of material. A splendid time was had by all.
Many may not know that the R.M.S. QUEEN MARY has its own official tartan. This lovely pattern made its debut during the 8th Annual Queen Mary Scottish Festival & Games in 2001. Each element of the tartan signifies something of significance in the ship’s history. The basic color is blue, representing the element in which she sailed; white, red, and black are the colors of the superstructure and Cunard funnels and six thin grey threads represent her six years of war service during World War II. A purple stripe is for the ship’s royal connections while the gold stripe alludes to the fact that the QUEEN MARY is permanently berthed in “The Golden State” of California.
The QUEEN MARY was a British-registered Cunard liner for 31-years on the North Atlantic, followed by her 46-years as a resident of Long Beach. But ask any Scotsman and they will still tell you the ship is Scottish in her soul. It is only fitting that this “Stateliest Ship” has become the backdrop for this gathering of the clans and the annual events of the Scottish Festival. This year’s event, held on President’s Day weekend, runs from 9am to 6pm both days. Adult one-day tickets are priced at $18.00 or $24.00 for both days. Most events will be held dockside, alongside the ship and in the grassy areas nearby. On Saturday evening, the ship will rock to the sounds of Scottish, Gaelic, Celtic and good old rock ‘n’ roll bands during the Rock Yer Kilt Concert from 6pm until midnight. If you’re in the area, it is well worth planning a visit to the historic QUEEN MARY. More information can be found here.
Thanks to Johanna Felix, Martin Cox and Peter Knego.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.