Everything You Need to Know to Make the Most of the 2023 Panama City Beach Scottish Festival

Grab your kilt and mark your calendar for March 4, 2023, for the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival. This festival celebrates Scottish heritage through music, highland games, whiskey tasting, food, and fun. You don’t have to have Scottish ancestry to attend and have a great time at the festival. If you are in Panama City Beach, don’t miss the chance to visit this festival and get in touch with a flavor of Scotland on the Florida Emerald Coast.

What Is the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival?

people smiling at the camera, plaid clothing, scottish festival
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Sponsored by the Celtic Heritage Alliance since its beginning, the Scottish Festival has long been a staple of early spring in Panama City Beach for almost 30 years. Originally held on the grounds of Grace Presbyterian Church in Panama City, the festival has expanded rapidly over the years, outgrowing its original home in 2015. The following year, the festival moved to its current location at Frank Brown Park.

The new location allowed the festival to add several amenities, including a Scottish tea room, beer tent, and space for more clans and vendors. You should plan to spend the entire day at the festival to take in everything planned.

When and Where to Go for the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival in 2023

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The Scottish Festival takes place each year on the first Saturday of March. In 2023, it will happen on March 4 with festivities held in Frank Brown Park, it’s home for the last eight years. Wear comfortable walking for attending the festival. The park has more than 100 acres of space with 22 acres dedicated to festivals, such as the Scottish Festival. As a public facility, the park’s festival grounds include restrooms, lighting, and ample space for vendors and clans.

Check on the festival’s website for discounted tickets. These typically go on sale in February until the day before the festival, allowing you to save on the entry price. You may also get tickets at the gate on the day of the event.

Can’t Miss Entertainment and Activities at the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival

scottish festival
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Everyone throughout the region has an open invitation to the Scottish Festival. You don’t have to hold membership in any clans or have Scottish heritage. People who attend come from all backgrounds.

While the festival has had a beer tent and whiskey tastings in the past, it remains a family-friendly event with a children’s area that includes a petting zoo and family-friendly entertainment. Grab the entire family and head out to the Scottish Festival for a fun-filled Saturday.

The Panama City Beach Scottish Festival has historically announced its musical lineups in February before the festival. Past performers have included:

  • Ennis Pruitt
  • Krooked Kilts
  • Santa Rosa Pipe Band
  • Emerald Coast Pipes and Drums
  • Panama City Pipes and Drums

These musical acts are only some of the few pieces of entertainment you will experience. Other types of events and performances in previous years have included:

  • Irish Step Dancers  
  • Scottish Highland Dancers
  • Competitive Scottish Highland Games for Men and Women
  • British Car Show
  • Whiskey Tasting
  • Beer Tent
  • Children’s Tent
  • Petting Zoo
  • Clan Tents
  • Falconry Demonstrations
  • Scottish Tea Room

Why the Scottish Highland Games Are So Iconic

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One of the major draws to this festival is the inclusion of the Scottish Highland Games. These athletic events pit competitors against each other in feats of strength and endurance. Four separate classes ensure that competitors go up against others of similar caliber. These classes include women’s, Class B for beginners, Class A for those with more experience, and the Masters for those over 40 years old.

Events include various acts of throwing judged based on the height, distance, weight, and accuracy of the throw. One of the most familiar to modern audiences is the open stone throw, which resembles a shot put. This event has athletes competing to throw a stone weighing from 16 to 22 pounds for male competitors or between 10 and 16 pounds for female throwers. The athletes use their preferred method of throwing the stone the farthest with three chances to reach their greatest distance.

Another event is the lightweight for distance throws. The weight used is only light relative to other types of objects thrown at other events. The weights used for this event measure 16 pounds for the women’s class and 28 pounds for the other classes. Athletes run nine feet while holding a handle that has a chain and metal weights attached, which they throw single-handedly as far as they can. A similar event is the heavy weight for distance throws that uses a 42-pound or 28-pound weight, for men and women competitors respectively.

The sheaf toss resembles the action of tossing hay into a loft. However, the competitive event uses 12, 16, or 20-pound burlap bags instead of hay. Each athlete takes a pitchfork and tries three times to heave their bag over a raised bar with the pitchfork. Everyone takes a turn and those who don’t get their bag over the bar drop out of the contest. In the next round, the bar goes up two feet and the athletes try again. The event continues until one winner remains.

Similar to the sheaf toss is the weight over-bar competition. Like the sheaf toss, the weight over bar throw involves tossing a weight vertically over a bar. After each round, the increase of the bar’s height each round for this competition is only one foot compared to the two feet for the sheaf toss. However, the weights are heavier in the weight over bar. Those in A and B classes throw a 56-pound weight. Master’s class competitors toss a 42-pound weight. Women’s class throwers use a 28-pound weight.

The Scottish hammer throw uses a long pole with a heavy, rounded end that competitors throw for distance. Both women’s and Master’s divisions throw 16-pound hammers while classes A and B use 22-pound hammers. Unlike in the light and heavy weight toss for distance throws, the athlete cannot move their feet during the throw.

One of the most eye-catching of the Scottish highland games is the caber toss. Imagine tossing a telephone pole and you have a good image of what caber tossing looks like. Competitors carefully balance long tree trunks measuring between 65 and 140 pounds and 16 to 22 feet long. The end they hold in their hands has a smaller circumference than the other end. The athletes must toss their cabers so the small end flips upward and the caber lands on the ground. Athletes try to get the caber to land pointing toward 12 o’clock for a perfect score.

Don’t miss the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival in 2023 for food, fun, music, and a celebration of everything Scottish.