[/caption]Last year, the crowds surprised the organizers of the Bitterroot Scottish Irish Festival in Hamilton. The cars were literally parked end-to-end along the East Side Highway. Once inside the gates, the combination of the pipe and drum bands, the Irish dancers, the athletic games, and the great food delighted the crowds, who wandered the acres of grass of the Daly Mansion grounds.


This year, shuttle buses will be running from Stevensville, Hamilton, and the nearby Hamilton High School parking lot and the Ravalli County Fairgrounds parking lot. There will be parking inside the Mansion gates for the handicapped and and for those who buy a parking permit in advance.

The games this year are taking competition up a few notches. The first Pro Masters Championship games in the Northwest Rockies will be this weekend, with pro athletes from the International Highland Games Federation.

The 2012 Honored Clan this year will be Clan Campbell, with the Grand Entry of Clans and bands at 12 noon Saturday. Red McWilliams will again MC the event.

Friday, the Honored Clan luncheon is at 1 p.m. and gates open at 5 p.m. with a Ceilidh at 6.

Saturday, games open at 9 a.m. and the athletics begin, along with solo pipe and drum competition. Vendors and concessions will be on the north lawn of Daly Mansion. Athletic competition will on the south end of the grounds. Mass Band competition is at 1 p.m. There will be music stage on the north lawn and a dance stage on the south lawn.

Sunday, the children's athletic competition takes over at about 10 a.m., and another Grand Parade of Clans will happen at noon. The events end at 4 p.m. Sunday.

The heritage of Scots and Irish in the Bitterroot include Lewis and Clark, both Scottish descent, Irishman Marcus Daly, who founded Hamilton, Robert O'Hara the Irish first mayor of town, Scotsman James Hamilton, who laid out the town and A.J. Gibson, who remodeled the Daly Mansion, also of Scottish heritage.