The 41st annual Maine Highland Games and Scottish Festival will be held Friday, Aug. 16, and Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Topsham Fairgrounds. Courtesy Steve and Dotty Edmondson

TOPSHAM — Mainers seeking immersion into Scottish culture don’t necessarily have to hop on a plane.

The 41st Maine Highland Games and Scottish Festival will celebrate Celtic heritage in the Pine Tree State this weekend at the Topsham Fairgrounds.

The event began “to promote the culture, and the arts, by having the heavy athletics, the Highland dance and the piping, ” Patti Tillotson of Harpswell said in an interview Aug. 7. It is “carrying on the culture; it’s educating people.”

A past president of the Saint Andrews Society of Maine, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that sponsors the festival,  Tillotson will showcase her Scottish country dance skills at the event.

The activities are a nod to the many Scots who settled in Maine, and an effort to preserve and promote their heritage and their descendants. Tillotson, who comes from the clan MacPherson, is among those proud people.

A gathering of the Clans Ceilidh – a social event for all – kicks things off at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, with a bonfire, dance, music, storytelling, fresh bread and camp stew. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

“It’s just a time for people to get together and enjoy each other,” Tillotson said. “Renew friendships, meet new people.”

The main event is Saturday, Aug. 17, with gates opening at the Community Way fairgrounds at 8 a.m. and many events beginning at 8:30 a.m. Admission is $20 for adults and $5 for children.

The opening ceremony will be at 11 a.m. and feature a pipe bands display and a parade of the clans. The closing ceremony will be held at 4:30 p.m.

In the meantime, the fairgrounds will be abuzz with an array of activities, more information about which is available at mainehighlandgames.org. Musicians and dancers include the Tartan Terrors, the Elizabeth and Ben Anderson Duo, Jo Morrison, Charlie Zahm, and Fiddlers Glen. Scottish country dance, and sheepdog and pipe band demonstrations will also be held.

And, of course, there are competitions: Scottish athletic events for all ages, and attendees showing their stuff in highland dancing, piping and drumming.

Scottish and American food will be offered, along with a beer tent and various workshops. More than 50 clans and Scottish organizations will showcase displays on Scottish history and culture.

Funds raised by the festival go toward scholarships for those wanting to pursue further training in the Scottish arts, such as summer piping school and weekend workshops.

Tillotson hopes those that don’t know the culture well will have a chance to learn about and appreciate it. For those who do know it, or are a part of it, “it’s a chance to come and have a little bit of Scotland, have a little bit of the music and the dance.”

Asked about her favorite event at the festival, Tillotson had trouble picking just one. She referenced the ever-popular caber toss, during which women throw trees weighing 60-90 pounds, and men hurl those between 100-180 pounds.

“It’s fun going around the clans,” Tillotson said. “… People can check up on their history, which is valuable; a lot of people are looking for their backgrounds and their genealogy.”

A harp player, she’s interested in the music of harper Morrison, and noted the Celtic, early American and Civil War ballads sung by Zahm. The Highland dancing she helps to keep alive, and the beauty of the pipes.

“I don’t have a favorite,” Tillotson concluded. “I love absolutely every aspect of it.”