Scottish festival coming to Blaine


A festival celebrating Scottish culture with a dance championship, athletic events and bagpipe music will be held for the first time in Blaine on Saturday, June 1.

Bellingham Scottish Gathering will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event will be split between Blaine Marine Park and Semiahmoo Spit, with “Koinonia,” a 48-passenger boat, transporting festival-goers.

“There’s a lot to watch and experience, and a lot of educational opportunities,” said Heather Richendrfer, event founder and executive director.

An open highland dancing championship, regular dance competition, pipe band and Scottish drumming competitions, a massed band performance, beer garden provided by McKay’s Taphouse, and food and merchandise vendors will be at Blaine Marine Park, 235 Marine Drive. About a dozen Scottish clans will also have information booths; a storyteller trained in Edinburgh; and a music group from Oregon called Adams, Martin and Linahon will perform traditional Celtic music and sea shanties.

Traditional highland games such as stone throwing and a caber toss will take place on a grassy field just south of Semiahmoo Marina.

Over 200 competitors will attend the event, traveling from across the Pacific Northwest and as far as Alberta to show off their skills.

From the food vendors, attendees can purchase the national dish of Scotland called haggis, which is organ meat stuffed inside of a sheep stomach lining. Burgers, hot dogs and desserts will also be available to people who want to stick to traditional fair food.

Cascade Radio Group host Bill Davis will emcee the festival.

People are encouraged to park in downtown Blaine or on Semiahmoo Spit as there is limited parking near Blaine Marine Park. The festival will have designated parking lots at the Duty Free Americas parking lot at the corner of 2nd and C streets and at Grace Lutheran Church at 702 G Street. There will be free parking on the streets and designated parking at the Semiahmoo Spit field.

A shuttle bus will make a circular route starting at 8 a.m. and running continuously from Grace Lutheran to the Blaine Visitor Information Center at 546 Peace Portal Drive, Blaine Marine Park, the Duty Free Americas lot and back to the park.

This year is the festival’s fifth event after it started in 2018. Richendrfer started the event after another group stopped running its Scottish festival in Whatcom County.

Richendrfer’s mother is of Scottish descent and encouraged her to take highland dance classes in Bellingham as a child. She studied to become a judge in Vancouver, B.C. and has since traveled the world judging dance competitions, including the world championships, and has organized about 30 dance championships.

Richendrfer’s dance studio, the Clan Heather Dancers, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Richendrfer said she was most excited for the dancing championship, a new feature this year showcasing the highest level of highland dance competition. In order for the dance championship to be included this year, it had to be sanctioned by the Royal Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing.

There are only about a dozen dance championships in the U.S. and, like Scottish festivals in general, some of those have disappeared since the pandemic. Richendrfer said entries for this year’s competition are double last year’s total.

“It’s a point of pride to keep not only the cultural aspects going, but also honoring my family,” she said.

Richendrfer said she decided to hold the festival in Blaine after years of trying to find the right location. Blaine reminded her of Scotland, she said, because they both historically have a fishing industry, among other similarities.

If all goes well, Richendrfer said she hopes to host future festivals in Blaine.

“We hope to return year after year,” she said. “It’s a beautiful setting.”

Tickets can be purchased online or at the festival. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for students, seniors or active duty military. A $62 group ticket can also be purchased for a group of four people. Children under 5 years old are free. Boat transportation is included in the ticket price.

To purchase tickets, visit


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here