The small town of Eminence is used to seeing strangers in strange clothes. Every summer, the Kentucky Renaissance Fair draws thousands of period-clothed patrons from the Lexington, Cincinnati, and Louisville urban hubs to its rural fairgrounds.
This weekend, it's not pirates or fairies or renaissance nobility that will flood the town, but gentlemen in kilts, women in tartan, and scores of athletes and musicians vying for prizes in the 2014 Central Kentucky Highland Games.
The all-day event, hosted by the Kentucky Renaissance Fair, is a community-wide celebration of all things Celtic.
"It's a really good way to stay in touch with your heritage," says Ed Frederick, one of the event's founders.
The games grew out of a Celtic-themed gathering that Frederick and his wife, Linda, started at their farm in Midway 10 years ago.
"When we started out, we had one musical act and about three vendors and the whole Irish community came out and supported us that year," Frederick says. The event continued to grow each year, with this year's offerings including almost 20 vendors, live music, food, games, and traditional athletic competitions.
"When we opened the fair, we moved it to the fairgrounds," Frederick says, "and it went on like that for about 5 years."
At that point, the Scottish-themed Highland games came along as a separate event.
"We began having the Highland games a few weeks later," Frederick says, but the two events competed with one another.
"We decided to put them together." Frederick says. "That way, we were serving all the Celtic nations."
And thus the one-day Central Kentucky Highland Games was born.
The family-friendly event features traditional contests of strength and skill, such as caber toss, stone toss, weight toss, sheaf toss, and hammer throw. There are also games just for children.
Frederick said the Games' archery tournament has proven one of the most popular events over the years.
"We had about 60 shooters last year," Frederick says.
The archery tournament is for traditional archers only, not modern crossbows.
"We have several folks who specialize in the long bow," Frederick says, "and we had children as young as 8 or so participating as well."
How does someone compete in the archery tournament? It's simple. Just show up with your bow and arrows and they'll add you to the list. There's no need to register in advance.
There is, however, one rule for archery competitors: no drinking until you've finished competing.
"We give archers an armband which they can remove after they've competed," Frederick says.
Drinks and food are a major attraction, with the on-site pub Mikaela's Inn serving pints of imported beer as well as traditional Irish and Scottish dishes including shepherd's pie, haggis, and fish and chips.
Live music will include regional acts Drink & Sailor, Liam's Fancy, and McClannahan's Irish Dancers entertaining audiences at Mikaela's Inn while Celtic rockers Roger Drawdry & The Firestarters and Tuatha Dea take to the Celtic Rock Stage.
In addition, the event hosts a large drumming and piping competition, with dozens of bands and individuals competing for awards.
The event is not just fun and games though. Clan tents are on hand to assist anyone interested in learning more about their family's Celtic ancestral history or about the region and its history in general.
"You can learn your family's tartan or buy a kilt," says Frederick, "Or you can do some genealogical research. There's a lot of self-professed experts there, believe me."