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Kilty pleasure: Tartan Day at Maine Military Museum in South Portland

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Kilty pleasure: Tartan Day at Maine Military Museum in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — Call it a kilty pleasure.

On Saturday, April 10, the Maine Military Museum Annex will host an event honoring Maine Tartan Day, a celebration of Scots and Scots-Americans in Maine. The event will feature bag pipers, living historians, a parade of colors and, of course, shortbread.

Organizer Dianne Bergstedt said about a dozen different clans, or families, will be represented in a parade of colors celebrating Scottish culture. Each clan is represented by a tartan, most famously worn in the form of a kilt, with specific patterns and colors. 

Bergstedt, a genealogist who organized Tartan Day celebrations in Augusta in 2007, said this year's event is intended to highlight the common military heritage of Americans and Scots, who were brought to the New World as prisoners of war in 1650 after being defeated by Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Dunbar.

"The military museum seemed to be the perfect place to do that," she said.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2005 to nationally recognize Tartan Day, which is officially April 6 – the day the Scots declared their independence from England.

Bergsteadt, a member of both Clan Donald and Clan Landrum, said Tartan Day is to the Scots as St. Patrick's Day is to the Irish, only without the green beer.

"(Tartan Day) hasn't made its way on the calendar like St. Patrick's Day, but we're working on it." she said. "We have whisky. And it's whisky, without the 'e'."

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, New England has a higher of percentage of Scottish Americans than any other part of the country. About 8 percent of Cumberland County residents descend from Scotland, the third highest concentration in the state behind Lincoln and Washington counties. 

Bergsteadt said there will be a ceremonial reading of the Declaration of Arboath, a document sent to Pope John XXII on April 6, 1320, affirming Scotland's independence from England.

"Our Declaration of Independence was modeled after that," she said. "We have a shared relationship with the pursuit of freedom."

Following the American Revolution, Bergsteadt said the Scots quickly assimilated to their new country and consequently played major roles in all U.S. wars.

Like the Irish, Bergsteadt said Scots found a certain kinship with the American Revolution since it was waged against England, a common foe.

To celebrate that common heritage, the Soldiers of Scotland, a regional group of living historians, will be present Saturday, dressed in period garb, to offer a living history of military military uniforms.

Soldiers of Scotland Organizer Dave Worthing, a South Portland resident, said the group has been around for more than a decade, with members from as far away as Virginia. They have a regular presence at regional Highland games, most notably the Capital City Highland Games in Albany, N.Y.

Worthing said his group will set up displays of weaponry and personal items on the Military Museum's property at 50 Peary Terrace, and they'll answer questions about life in the military.

"Pretty much anywhere the British army fought a war, there's been a Scottish regiment," said Worthing, a 60-year-old member of the Clan Grant who fought in Vietnam. "The Highland Regiments were highly thought of."

Although weapons will be present, they will not fired.

But that's not to say there won't be a lot of noise.

Bergsteadt said the afternoon will also feature a jam session of bag pipes and Scottish drums.

"It's family-friendly," she said. "It's colorful. It's noisy. And there's guns."

The event is scheduled to run from 1-3 p.m.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net