Milwaukee Highland Games

Click the image to learn more. A group of people, some of whom are dressed in traditional kilts or tartan sashes, are bound for the Highland Games in 1909.

The Milwaukee Highland Games is one of the city’s oldest and longest-running ethnic festivals.[1] Organized by the St. Andrew’s Society in 1867, the festival took place in Mitchell Grove.[2] Throughout the late nineteenth century, festival attendance steadily grew, peaking in 1892 at 25,000.[3] Competitors from around America traveled to Milwaukee to participate in traditional Scottish athletics and to enjoy Scottish music, food, and culture.[4] The games were opened to other nationalities in 1891, and while Scots dominated traditional events, Milwaukee’s Germans took top marks in many track and field competitions.[5] The games were discontinued following the outbreak of World War I.[6] They resumed in 1937 and continue to the present day, but never regained their late-nineteenth century popularity.[7]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Jan Uebelherr, “Gloaming in Glendale,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 6, 1997.  Milwaukee was actually one of the first American cities to organize a Scottish Highland festival.
  2. ^ Joel McNally, “Highland Games Feature Clans and Contests,” The Milwaukee Journal, May 30, 1991. The park was owned by Milwaukee’s most prominent Scotsman, Alexander Mitchell.
  3. ^ Robert G. Carroon, “The Milwaukee Highland Games,” Milwaukee History: The Magazine of the Milwaukee County Historical Society 2, no. 4 (Winter 1979): 116.
  4. ^ Carroon, “The Milwaukee Highland Games,” 115. In 1870, the famed Scottish athlete Donald Dinnie was in attendance as an exhibitionist, as his scores were far too high for any other competitors to match. In his lifetime, Dinnie won over 11,000 Scottish Games contests, far outscoring his competitors.
  5. ^ Carroon, “The Milwaukee Highland Games,” 116.
  6. ^ Carroon, “The Milwaukee Highland Games,” 119. Reasons for this included avoiding the potential for German-English tension, a loss of competitors who were serving abroad, and a desire among Scottish-Americans to show respect for their homeland being at war.
  7. ^ Mary-Liz Shaw, “Put on Your Kilt for Milwaukee Highland Games,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, June 2, 2011. See also Carroon, “The Milwaukee Highland Games,” 120.

For Further Reading

Carroon, Robert G. “Bagpipes and Beer Barrels.” M.A. thesis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 1969.

Carroon, Robert G. “The Milwaukee Highland Games.” Milwaukee History: The Magazine of the Milwaukee County Historical Society 2, no. 4 (Winter 1979): 108-120.

Redmond, Gerald. The Caledonian Games in Nineteenth Century America. Cranbury, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 1971.

See Also


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