On Saturday, March 4, 2017, Panama City Beach was the site of one of the largest assemblages of Scots this side of Glasgow, as the 25th Annual Panama City Scottish Festival and Highland Games took place at Frank Brown Park.
With an estimated crowd of over 5,000 attendees, the event was held from 9AM until 9PM under perfectly clear sunny skies and balmy breezes, and featured music, Celtic sports, food and enough ambience to make anyone feel Scottish for at least the day.
Organizer Joyce Oakley invited the staff of ‘Real Florida Magazine’ to attend for a ‘behind the scenes’ look at all the pomp and pageantry from this United Kingdom celebration, joining Scottish, Irish and English heritage, as seen in these accompanying photos.
Of special note was the entertainment, featuring Seven Nations, an authentic Celtic band formed in New York City in 1993, and the Blarney Girls, a trio of Celtic musicians based in Georgia.
A number of Pipe and Drum marching bands laid a foundation for the many Clans in attendance, some from as far away as the West Coast, and the event, underwritten in part by Panama City Beach, was deemed a huge success.
Held at Frank Brown Park in PCB for the past two years after outgrowing the campus of Grace Presbyterian Church in Panama City, the event has grown with each of its 25 occurrences, with the 2017 event seemingly the largest festival yet.
Recently adding a Renaissance Fair to the festival offering, a large number of reenactors were present in period dress and wielding respective battle axes, swords and other accoutrements from the Round Table era.
The Scottish Festival, accompanied by the wailing of over a hundred bagpipes, followed the Pier Park Mardi Gras and St. Andrews Mardi Gras celebrations, finishing a three week trifecta of special events, and drawing some 100,000 visitors to Panama City and Panama City Beach during this traditional Spring Break period.
A number of authentic belly dancers also participated, making the crowd wildly disparate in makeup, at once fascinating and intimidating, and making for a few traffic jams, crowded streets and great people-watching.
Many of the same people will be in attendance, celebrating the Scottish heritage along with many of the same events on Saturday, March 18, at the Southeast Alabama Highland Games at the Houston County Farm Center in Dothan, Alabama.
See more photos and video clips on Facebook at Real Florida Magazine, online at www.RealFloridaMagazine.org, and listen to interviews with business owners, community leaders and event organizers on FPTC Radio, the voice of Florida Panhandle Technical College at www.FPTCRadio.com.