BROADALBIN — Though he was born and raised in Broadalbin, Erik Stevens spent his early life unaware of the area’s Scottish origins.
“There were hints all around, but I never knew the extent of it,” Stevens said.
Now, the owner of Broadalbin’s Great Sacandaga Brewing Co. wants community members to know more about their town’s rich roots, too. And he thinks he has the place to do it.
Starting Saturday at noon, his brewery will host the first annual Broadalbin Scottish Gathering and Games.
“I’d like to be able to educate people and get everybody to know the Scottish heritage in the area,” Stevens said. “This is an appropriate venue for that.”
The business owner became interested in the town’s European origins after he learned of its namesake: Breadalbane, a region in the heart of the Scottish Highlands known for its lively festival customs.
“There’s a traditional piper’s tune named after the [Breadalbane] Gathering. The Gathering is the whole festival, and the Highland Games are part of that,” Stevens explained. “I thought, ‘How cool is that? Why don’t we have an event with the Scottish Games? We’ll do an entire gathering and it’ll be a festival here at the brewery.’”
Stevens brought local organizations, such as the Empire Throwing Club, St. Andrew’s Society and the Schenectady Pipe Band, on board to help plan. In addition to athletic events, the gathering will feature live music, a traditional Scottish dance, food trucks, crafts, vendors and children’s activities. It will be free to attend.
The Empire Throwing Club will oversee the games, providing education on Scottish athletics and demonstrations of key events. Mac Dillman, founder of the club, described his vision.
“Since this is really about getting the first year off to a good start and getting some exposure for the club and the event, we’re just keeping it fun,” Dillman said. “We’re going to be doing a handful of crowd events that people can sign up and participate in.”
While crowd participation in the games will be limited, Stevens hopes to expand this element of the gathering in the future. He cited the longstanding Capital District Scottish Games in Altamont as an inspiration.
“I’d like for this to be an actual competition where the local athletes have a way to perform and show their athletics,” he said. “It’ll be an actual competitive event that they can look forward to.”
Dillman has similar goals.
“For new people, especially the people in my club, they want to go to Altamont. They want to throw there, because that’s what they see and that’s where they learned about it, but it’s hard to do,” Dillman said. “I see Broadalbin and local things like that as a way in for those beginners in this area.”
Great Sacandaga Brewing Co. has been a place to celebrate Scotland since it first opened its doors in 2020. When COVID-19 restrictions made it impossible for the brewery to stay open until midnight on New Year’s Eve, Stevens and his staff established a new tradition.
“Scotland celebrates their New Year’s Eve at 7 o’clock our time,” Stevens explained. “We celebrated the Scottish New Year at 7 p.m. We had a bagpiper come in and he played…We raised a glass to Scotland.”
Since then, the Scottish New Year has been an annual occasion at the brewery. Stevens plans to make the Broadalbin Scottish Gathering and Games an annual occasion, too. After all, its founder recognizes there is still much to discover about the region’s Scottish heritage.
“I’m learning as I go,” Stevens said.