For one couple, this weekend at the Columbus Scottish Festival represents the dog days of summer.
Paul and Leigh Anne Tucker and their pooches have become as much a part of the annual celebration as plaid and pipers. For years, the pair from Willisburg, Kentucky, were part of the sheepdog trials competition.
But Saturday and Sunday, for the fourth year in a row, they will lead several up-close-and-personal sheepdog demonstrations at the 26th annual festival at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds in Garden City on County Road 200 South.
Their three Border Collies they will bring to Columbus are like well-trained athletes.
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“They don’t exactly just lay around and play Frisbee,” Paul Tucker said with a laugh.
He has attended every local Scottish Festival since founders launched the event in 1991. The Tuckers travel and compete nationwide in trials, including ones that were held at the Scottish Festival before the layout and format changed.
“These dogs give us their whole heart,” Leigh Anne Tucker said. “They work so very hard.”
The canines’ work ethic, focus and perseverance will be among classic elements on display at seven similar demonstrations. Leigh Anne Tucker offered a reminder to not fret about the six to 10 Katahdin sheep to be herded into a small pen. In her view, the animals understand that their role is to obey the dogs.
“They respect the dogs,” she said. “And they like being worked.”
The Border Collies love their work, too — so much so that they find joy within their responsibility itself, Leigh Anne Tucker said.
“Their actual reward is the job that they’re doing (herding),” she said. “Their reward is being able to look at their accomplishment.”
For the Tuckers, the Border Collies “have opened so many doors for us and extended our family” across the country, Leigh Anne said.
Locally, last year’s 25th anniversary festival drew about 4,800 people, shy of the 6,000 who turned out regularly in the mid-1990s. About 70 percent of attendees come from outside Bartholomew County.
While content with last year’s attendance, Scottish Festival board president Justin Booth and his team of organizers and volunteers continue to work at building the audience. While distributing information on the festival at a recent local farmers market, Booth discovered that many people seemed unaware of the event since it moved from Mill Race Park and a mid-summer schedule after 2002.
A variety of food vendors give the festival a distinctly Scottish taste, with the added culture of Highland dancing always among the most popular draws. Vendor tents allow attendees to buy everything from T-shirts to kilts.
Moreover, visitors can research their own Scottish roots by chatting with representatives at the numerous Clan and Scottish Society tents on the grounds. And besides whiskey tasting, a beer garden also will be available.
The Tuckers say they love the event — and Leigh Anne offers a particular reason close to her heart: Her maiden name of Dunn is Irish.
8 a.m. — Festival grounds open.
8:30 a.m. — Highland Games begin.
9 a.m. — Sheepdog demonstration, solo piper/drummer competition.
10 a.m. — Children’s area opens, highland dance competition begins. Also, The Sprigs band entertains with its Irish tunes.
10:30 a.m. — Dublin O’Shea’s Celtic folk entertains.
11 a.m. — Beer garden opens, and whiskey tasting begins. Also, The Mudmen’s Celtic rock entertains.
11:30 a.m. — Kids games begin.
Noon — Opening ceremonies.
2 p.m. – Bagpipe band competition.
4:15 p.m. — Parade of vintage cars.
8 a.m. — Festival grounds open.
9 a.m. – Highland Hustle 5K run/walk.
9:30 a.m. — Kirkin’ of the Tartan church service. Also, Highland Games begin again.
10 a.m. — Children’s area opens.
11 a.m. — The local Southern Indiana Pipes & Drums. Also, sheepdog demonstration.
Noon — Parade of the Tartan and massed pipe bands.
1:30 p.m. – Scottish country dancing, bonniest knees competition.
2:40 p.m. – Dublin O’Shea performs.
3 p.m. — Fountain Trust Pipe Band.
What: 26th Annual Columbus Scottish Festival.
When: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, County Road 200 South.
Admission: Adult Saturday or Sunday, $12; adult both days, $18; youth 6 to 12 each day, $3; children younger than 6, free.
Weekend forecast: Sunny with highs in the low to mid 70s.