Scottish and Irish clans from throughout Arizona will descend on Payson Saturday for a daylong celebration of all things Scottish, blanketing the area in a sea of plaid kilts and the bellow of the bagpipe.
The East West Exchange parking lot, at 100 N. Tonto St., will play host to the first Tartan Day Festival from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Organizers promise a fun day of folk music, entertainment and food.
And even if you don’t know if you have Scottish ties, clan members will help attendees trace their heritage through their surname.
Lloyd Gibson, of the Buchanan clan, helped organize the celebration in little over a month with East West Exchange owners Lisa and Chip Semrau.
“The reason we wanted to do this was to educate people and help people of Celtic origins to grab onto an identity,” Gibson said. “Most people have no idea who they are or where they are from.”
Gibson’s Scottish heritage plays a pivotal role in his life. He frequently dons a kilt with his clan’s tartan pattern.
Tartan, is a plaid pattern commonly found in various colors on kilts. Each clan has its own tartan and from the 1700s, this is how clan members identified each other, similar to today’s military garb.
Today, there are 95 active clans in Scotland, each with their own tartan.
Gibson caught the Semrau’s attention when he walked into East West Exchange several weeks ago with a kilt on for a Celtic concert.
“We started talking and he suggested celebrating the international tartan day festival,” Lisa said.
“The idea mushroomed from there,” Gibson said.
The worldwide celebration officially started in the U.S. in 1998 when the Senate recognized April 6 as National Tartan Day. Today, more than 11 million Americans claim Scottish and Scotch-Irish roots.
Gibson can spot a Celt if they have the “toe.”
People with Scottish ancestry commonly have a second toe that is longer than their big toe, he explained.
If you have this, “you might have a Celt in the wood pile,” he said.
Members from at least half a dozen clans from around Arizona will attend Saturday’s festivities helping people trace their lineage and offering history on their clan.
“This is the first organized clan gathering in Rim Country,” Gibson said. “We hope to make it an annual event.”
For new “clanners” like James Edward Parker, the day is a great way to learn more about Scottish history and enjoy the country’s tasty cuisine.
Vendors will sell shepherds pie along with other food offerings.
The Semraus are having a large stage set up in the parking lot for at least seven performances. There will be bagpipe music, Scottish storytelling, Irish ballads and dance tunes.
“This is going to be something like this town has never seen,” Gibson said.
“Many of the events and clan representatives will be located outdoors on the festival grounds,” the Semraus said. “However, be sure to come indoors for more music, Celtic merchandise and much merry-making.”