30th anniversary of the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival

The Celtic Heritage Alliance is proud to present the 30th anniversary of the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival on March 2nd, 2024. Get ready for a captivating celebration of culture and heritage! As the waves of the Gulf meet the shores of Florida’s breathtaking coastline, a different kind of excitement is set to ensue. This festival is not just a mere event; it’s a journey into the vibrant traditions of Scotland, right in the heart of Panama City Beach. From the mesmerizing sound of bagpipes echoing through the air to the graceful movements of traditional Scottish dancers, this festival promises a day filled with top-notch entertainment and an unforgettable fusion of Scottish and coastal charm.

Celtic dance.

Northwest Florida was predominantly settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants. As the Florida Panhandle’s largest and longest running Scottish Festival, we are proud of our ancestors and strive to honor their culture with our festival, fundraisers, and educational events throughout the year. Our local Scottish Festival started 30 years ago as an outreach of Grace Presbyterian Church in Panama City. Early on, the festival was small and was held as an outreach of the church. Then church members, John and Patty McIlroy, Scottish entertainers, took charge of the festival, brought in other Celtic entertainers, Celtic food, and merchandise vendors and the festival grew. The festival did not yet have a full Highland Games. A few athletes were invited and put on games demonstrations for the crowds. Then Pipe bands from around the region would be invited and the festival grew. Eventually John and Patty, with the help of several local people, started our host band, the Panama City Pipes and Drums.

The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Scotland

Highland athletics.

Eventually an athletic director was found, and the Highland Games became an important part of the festival. The Panama City Scottish Festival and Highland Games were born. Over the years many people, church members and non-members, took leadership roles. The games grew to an all-day event with highland games, musical entertainment, pipe bands, dancers, food and merchandise vendors, car shows, and much more. The festival eventually outgrew the church and had to find a larger venue. In 2016 we moved to Frank Brown Park and became the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival and Highland Games. This, our 30th anniversary, has been dedicated to John and Patty McIlroy. Without their leadership and guidance early on, we would not be here today. Flowers of the Forest dear friends.

Making friends. Photo: Lisa Stokes.

On the 2nd of March in 2024, we are proud to mix the Florida sunshine with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Scotland! Our bands this year are Celtica Nova, who received the “International Celtic Artist of the Year” award at the 2019 Australian Celtic Music Awards. Co-headlining is Celtic Conundrum, known for creating new traditional music, exceptional harmonies, and heart stopping vocals!  Four of the best Pipe and Drum bands in Florida will provide us not only with the sights but sounds of Scotland. Highland dancers, axe throwing, kid’s games, and of course, the ever-popular Highland Athletic competition will round out the entertainment. Be sure to check out one of the many vendor booths for Celtic-inspired merchandise, or head over to the Clan Village to show off your Celtic pride. Wet your whistle at the Whisky Tasting tent (tickets required), Tea Room, or Beer Tent and enjoy your favorite Celtic food at one of the many food vendors.

Our Festival Highland Games include:

-“Open” Stone Throw

-Light Weight for Distance Throws (LWFD)

-Heavy Weight for Distance Throws (HWFD)

-Weight Over Bar (WOB)

-The Scottish Heavy Hammer

-The Caber

-The Sheaf Toss

We are proud to announce that ticket prices are the same as last year and include parking. Buy your tickets now at www.pcbscottishfestival.com. Whisky tasting tickets include Festival ticket.

For more information, to sign up as a sponsor or vendor, or to buy tickets, go to www.pcbscottishfestival.com

Text by: Dawn Nezat, Panama City Beach Scottish Festival.

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