Time, money lacking, Scottish Festival dies
By Mark Huffman, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: January 21, 2013
Pipe a sad tune for the Jackson Scottish Festival, for the grand auld event is nae more.
After a dozen years, the festival has run out of money and steam, and the celebration of all things Scottish has danced its last jig, played its last hornpipe and tossed its last caber.
The event, put on by the Wyoming Highlanders, has lost funding and is consuming the time of the organizers, said Dave Macfarlane, president of the group.
“We’ve decided that with the cost and the lack of manpower that we are not going to be able to do it,” Macfarlane said. “Grants are going away, and we’re looking at having to pull in up to $15,000, which would be about 50 or 60 percent of the cost.”
Though the group will discuss the festival this weekend at its annual Robert Burns dinner, Macfarlane said the odds against the festival are long. To continue, he said, “it’s going to take money and manpower, and we’ve run out of both.”
Macfarlane said the salute to Scotland and its culture is among many around the country, and that its problems are not unique: “It’s not the first one to fall.”
Wyoming Highlanders has about 70 members on the rolls, but work on the festival fell to about a half-dozen, Macfarlane said. He said he put in about 400 hours on the event last year.
There’s been support from businesses in the area, but grants for the festival have fallen in recent years from about $5,000 to $2,000. Money from the town of Jackson and Teton County also dwindled, he said.
The initial Jackson Scottish Festival was held in 2001 as a memorial to Jackson Police Chief Dave Cameron, who first proposed it. Cameron died in a tractor accident, but his idea lived on. The festival featured Scottish games and sports, food, music and dance, with everything usually squeezed into less than two days.
The festival was first held at the base of Snow King. It later moved to fields near Colter Elementary School and in recent years to the Teton County Fairgrounds.
Attendance hit about 1,200 in recent years, with people coming from around the state, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. But attendance left the event financially shaky with organizers charging only $5 for an adult admission. Entry fees and vendors raised about $5,000, Macfarlane said.
Though the Highlanders aren’t saying the festival will never be back, its return will take new cash and new blood.
“We’re leaving the possibility open,” Macfarlane said, “but it’s going to take someone in our group or people outside who would take it on.”