With the Scottish Home Picnic coming up on Saturday, August 2nd, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on some history. I danced at my first Scottish Home Picnic in the summer of 1963. With a few exceptions, I have danced or had dancers perform at this event ever since! Though it is hard to tell from this photo, I am third from the left in the back row, and judging by my height and my costume, this photo was probably taken about 1966 or so. Funny thing is, I can name many of the dancers in this photo! Many I am still in contact with today. I have also had the privilege of teaching many of the children and grandchildren of my childhood dance friends throughout the years.
The Stock Yard Kilty Band is playing behind us as they did for many years. During my high school and college years, this was my band when I played the bagpipes. All these years later, we continue to march behind the SYKB every 4th of July at the Brookfield and Lyons Parades, and we perform each year at the SYKB Band Dance in November.
Back then, our kilts were traditional tartans, we wore hats and often sporrans, with lots and lots of frilly lace at our necks and at the end of our sleeves. Most of us had solid color socks that were held up with flashes attached to bands of elastic around our legs and our hair was often down! For many years, we wore plaids over our shoulders and attached around our waists as well as wearing our medals on our jackets which not only added to the weight of the jacket, but also created hazards to navigate as medals would often come off during a performance and land in the middle of the stage.
I think this picture was taken in 2002 as many of the dancers in the front row just graduated from high school! How time flies! The best part for me is that I have been able to participate in the lives of many young people over the years and have remained in contact with many of them as they have graduated from high school and college, gotten married and had children of their own.
Sally Wilhelm Johnston and Jennifer Russell Hatton both grew up dancing at the Picnic and their daughters, along with mine have also been participating and attending this event since they were wee bairns. Rockford teacher, Rebekah Danaher danced at the Picnic for many years as did Plainfield teacher Jessi Oudin DePatie.
So even though in 2014 the kilts are brighter and more colorful, hair is neatly confined in a bun, medals are hung on racks rather than sewn on jackets, THHD dancers will be on the grounds dancing the Highland Fling as generations have done before, carrying on the rich tradition and heritage of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society, the Scottish Home and Scottish Highland Dancing in the Chicago area!