|Sumter is in the Low Country of South Carolina between Columbia and the coastal town of Charleston. It’s a relatively slow-moving Southern town with oaks draped in Spanish moss and palmettos. Picturesque and truly Southern USA!
The Carolinas were the first places settled by Scots in the 1600’s from Charleston inward to this “backcountry” area of Sumter and their influence is felt throughout the region. The Sumter County Scottish Country Fair was a first-time event held at the Sumter County Museum and Backcountry Homestead. The homestead shows a typical log cabin, settler’s house (c1812), Commissary (c1812) for stores, Loom House (c1800), Blacksmith shop, smokehouse, barn & gardens.
Friday Evening there was a Barbeque dinner (excellent Carolina BBQ, by the way), a Ceilidh and bonfire! The evening became chilly and the bonfire was most welcome. We were entertained by Neil Anderson and his band, Full Moon Ensemble, Flora MacDonald-Gammon, Alasdair Fraser, and the Palmetto Scottish Dancers. Dancer Tori Taggart gave us a demonstration, too. The music and fellowship was just wonderful. Alasdair Fraser had just arrived late the night before from the Basque region of Spain! Despite his jet lag, his usual humorous rapport with the audience prevailed and he had the crowd up and dancing, some circling the bonfire.
Saturday was a beautiful warm
Southern day and the fair featured shoppes, homestead demonstrations, music,
dancing, museum tours, border collies and heavy athletic demonstrations. The
same musicians from the Ceilidh were back on stage throughout the day, and
traditional Scottish foods of meat pies, pasties, bridies, shortbread,
scones & yes, a haggis, could be found! Of course, there was also the
Palmetto Pipes & Drums! Classes were held in the museum on Celtic
musical instruments, genealogy, and Scottish culture.
At the end of the day, I was
packing up my wares and was lamenting an inability to find dark beer or
stout, when a Sumter native came up and traded three of his home brewed
stouts and bitter ales for one of my heather plants! They were outstanding
brews and I thank you sir!
Saturday night was a real treat! Alasdair
Fraser was in concert at the Sumter Opera House! He engaged the audience
right from the start with his outstanding talent on the violin and with his
humor. He had us all clapping, tapping feet, and some up on stage dancing
while he played! You just can’t sit still if Alasdair’s playing the
After the concert, I joined some friends, the
Full Moon Ensemble and Alasdair Fraser in the lobby of our hotel for an
impromptu Ceilidh. We sang, played and even danced until 2am. The party then
adjourned to pool house! Thanks for the great company and beautiful music,
Sunday, a picnic of Carolina barbeque was
held at the Black River Church, a late 1700’s/early 1800’s church and
graveyard. It is some distance from Sumter, but absolutely beautiful, with a
plantation house nearby! Great for the genealogist or historian. The day was
gray and cold and many shivered in the breeze, but the food and company was
great as always! Lots of Southern hospitality abounded (and we all know that
famous hospitality tradition was brought by the Scots). Afterwards there was
a kirkin’ of the tartan at the church.
My thanks to the organizers of this festival!
Everyone was so helpful and friendly, the musicians were outstanding and I
enjoyed getting to know you all. I recommend this festival highly and hope
it comes off again next year!