2023 Scottish Society Games
VBAC at the 2023 Fresno Scottish Society Gathering and Games
By Simon Cooper
Ceud Mile Failte! … A Hundred Thousand Welcomes!
Saturday September 16, 2023, provided the VBAC folks with a fantastic opportunity to gather and enjoy another wonderful day together in the California sun. And, what a wonderfully fantastic Central California day it was! Organized by our President Jon, twenty of our members, in thirteen cars, assembled at the beautiful grounds of Kearney Park, to participate in the festivities of the 46th Annual Fresno Scottish Gathering and Games. These Games, hosted by the Scottish Society of Central California, included Medieval Battles, Heavy Athletics, Youth Athletics, Herding Dogs, a Bagpiper and Band Competition, a Market Place, a Living History Village, a fantastic Clan Row, and our fine display of well preserved British Automobiles.
The morning kicked off with a 0700 rendezvous at Fresno’s Chandler Executive Airport. One of the oldest operational airports in California, and situated alongside one of Fresno’s most grand boulevards, its history stretches back to the end of World War I. At the time, there were no facilities for aviation in the Fresno area. Recognizing the problem, Wilber F Chandler and his wife Edna Maria Goble allowed pilots to take off and land in their fields once the crops were harvested. Pilots called the site “Chandler Field.” Efforts to raise funds for a permanent facility began in 1920. One notable fundraiser was the “World’s Greatest Aerial Circus” held at the Chandler farm on the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day 1923, featuring races, parachute jumps and dual wing walking. In 1929, the Chandler family donated 100 acres of their land to the City of Fresno and Chandler Air Field was opened in November 1929. One of the most famous aviators to visit the air field, was Charles Lindberg. On March 23, 1930, he and his wife landed briefly at the airport and were greeted by a crowd of 20,000. In 1941, shortly before the United States entered into World War II, the US Army Air Corps Southwest Air District took over the airport while nearby Hammer Field was being built. Upon its completion in June 1942, all military activity moved there. Located just 1.5 miles west of the central business district, Chandler is still an active airport in the Fresno area. It served as Fresno’s primary airport for civil and commercial aviation until 1948, later being replaced by the current facility located approximately 6.5 miles away, to the northeast of downtown.
Departing Chandler at 0715, our ever faithful mate Russ led the VBAC caravan westward along the beautiful palm and eucalyptus tree lined Kearney Boulevard, for a short journey to the beautiful 225 acres of Kearney Park. ETA… 0730.
Kearney Park, located just seven miles west of Fresno, became Fresno County’s first park in 1949 and draws the greatest number of visitors among the parks in the regional park system. At the heart of this beautiful park, lies the Kearney Mansion. Designed in the French Renaissance style, the mansion consists of two separate buildings, a main residence and the adjoining servant’s quarters. Begun in 1892, by Martin Theodore Kearney (1842-1906) a substantial contributor to the agricultural development of both Fresno County and the State of California, the mansion was intended to be a temporary residence (of sorts) until the grand “Chateau Fresno” could be built. Upon its completion, the mansion would become the caretaker’s lodge… sadly, the Chateau was never actually built. More information can be found at: historicfresno.org
Once situated on the grounds, our folks were greeted by the Scottish Society’s Mark Peterson, who thanked everyone for coming out to participate in their event and invited us to have an enjoyable day. As one might imagine, we did just exactly that. It’s always pleasurable getting the Club together and this event is becoming a favorite. A colorful event parking area was adorned by a Midget, 2 MGAs, 2 Minis and a MINI, 2 TR3s and a TR4, a TR6, a Sunbeam Alpine, a Big Healey and a Jaguar 420G. Unfortunately, due to circumstances known only to a British mechanic, we had two cars unable to join us. We’ll look for that beautiful Jaguar F-Type Coupe and the equally beautiful Triumph Spitfire next year.
Great food, libation and entertainment was aplenty the entire day. For those of us who proudly enjoy our Scottish heritage, it was an opportunity for interaction with members of our Clan(s) and enjoy exploring a bit deeper into the history of such a wonderful Country. And, of course, partaking in the most cherished libation of our homeland… With all the varied things to do and see, (the Clan Row, the Pipers, the Herding and the Athletics) we always make it a MUST to wander over and take in the Medieval Battles. This unbelievable event pits two teams of five Gladiators against one another. Bound within the confines of an arena measuring approximately 20’ x 40’, these warriors are clad in 75 pounds of steel armor and weaponized in a manner that make for some serious “period correct” hand to hand combat. Take a look at the “Order of the Gauntlet and Rose” YouTube videos. This is serious medieval fighting at its best.
Aside from all the entertainment activities made available to the public by the event organizers, one thing (an internal thing) stood out in our minds as one of the most enjoyable. Our Brother Larry absolutely enjoys allowing people to take a seat behind the wheel of his MGA, the Green Goblin. Most, including myself, have never had (or taken) that opportunity… The smiles on the faces of the folks, (I’m guessing they numbered at least twenty or thirty) particularly those on the verge of driving age, is absolutely priceless. You sense there may be a few future classic British car owners amongst them all. A bit of trickery comes when Larry asks if they can figure out how to open the door to get out! With no handle on the outside, most were truly at a loss. Once that inside pull cord was discovered, laughter ensued and the occupants exited having had a memorable MGA experience. Huge smiles all around…
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to reflect on just how enjoyable this event is to attend. That enjoyment comes as a result of all the hard work that goes into organizing an event of this magnitude. While the food, the drink, the competition and the people, made this a full day of enjoyment for everyone attending, it’s the organization behind the Games that made this day stand strong. As this was our third consecutive trip to the Gathering and Games as a Club, I know we have all come away with a renewed appreciation for what it takes to put on such a large event.
From the hundreds of participants, to the thousands of spectators, this event is one of the largest of its kind in California. The hundreds of hours of planning and logistical responsibilities aside, everything appeared to have come together seamlessly… This is a truly amazing accomplishment by the Scottish Society. Hats off and cheers to you all! Kinda makes our annual Roundup Car Show in Clovis, CA seem like a “walk in the park.”
Visit their website at: fresnoscottishsociety.com
Thank you to Roger Wilson, Chief of the Scottish Society of Central California. As in the past, we ALL had a fantastic time and so appreciate everyone’s generously warm hospitality.
See you at the Games of 2024. Haste Ye Back!