Scottish Festival

Another of the big events held during Memorial Day weekend was the Scottish festival held in Furman University campus (Greenville, SC). Furman University, founded in 1826, is a private liberal arts institution with a rich history of educational excellence – amongst its most famous alumni are Charles Townes (laid the foundations of the laser), John B. Watson (American Psychologist, founder of Behaviorism) and Devyn Noyce (OK, not famous yet, but is a personal family friend that went there and just graduated from Law School; you wait and see what she will accomplish). Furman has beautiful grounds that were a perfect backdrop for this festival (will do a post of it in the near future).

A sample of what we saw:

We were told that the opening ceremonies was something not to be missed. We were glad we listened and got there before it started. The whole opening honored members of the US and Scottish armed forces that lost their lives in service to their country. The sound of bagpipes is simply unique and often gives me goose bumps; yes I got them as the Atlanta Pipes & Drums opened the ceremonies with a Scottish song I heard before, but must admit do not know its name.

 

The North Atlanta Pipes & Bags is a large band, impeccably dressed delivering strong and powerful sounding sounds. A true crowd pleaser.

 

This gentleman led the Royal Highland Fusiliers, Second Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland serving as the Guard of Honor during the ceremony. Look at the intricate and colorful attire. Must say that the crowd was silent and as respectful as I have ever seen any crowds, as the band the trail this soldier entered the field and positioned itself in front of the honored guests.

 

One of the Royal Highland Fusiliers had a prosthetic leg; will assume as a result of injury during combat, but not really sure. Regardless, another example of how far technology has come in returning to as normal a life as possible for those suffering amputations.

 

The stand with the honored guests overseeing the parade and ceremony honoring those who sacrificed their lives serving their country.

 

Greenville representatives of the Miss America Teen (left) and Miss America (right) took part of the opening ceremonies.

One of the 44 Scottish clans represented during the clan parade. I never knew there were so many Scottish clans. Chose to show this one as it was my mother in-laws family name.

 

Part of the opening activities also included a parachute accuracy stunt by three veterans. They did a great job landing on the designated spot even though it was a windy day.

 

The opening activities ended with the folding of the American and Scottish flags; that were later presented to the honored guests. Here we see two naval officers during the folding process; a solemn moment.

 

The Scottish games involved strength activities such as hurling a 45 lb weight over a bar. Concentration being an important part of this event.

 

It may look easy, but having witnessing it, must say it is far from it. This event involved gentlemen that were 55 years and older. The younger ones used a 55 lb weight.

 

This big gentleman was the clear winner within the over 55 group. He looked about 6 feet 5 inches and at least 280 lbs. The bar they had to clear continued to be raised until there was only one that cleared it; he was the winner.

 

Another game was the famous telephone pole toss. Timing is critical as we saw several that did not time the throw properly; could be dangerous as you are leaning forward expecting the pole to move in the same direction, but it does not.
This one was good toss, but not sure if he was the winner (farthest throw).

 

Ok, for those wondering why are these guys wearing skirts…

 

In addition to games there were several groups that got the crowds engaged in old-time activities. This gentleman was part of the group that taught visitors to use the big heavy swords used in the Scottish highlands of old. His get-up looked really authentic.

 

One of my favorites was the birds of prey exhibition. In addition to hawks and falcons, this horned owl was a “hoot”; always looking for the treat (red spot on the stool is a small piece of raw meat) before making any effort expected by her handler.

 

Always liked the looks of British cars, so when I heard that the Scottish festival included a British cars exhibition I was really looking forward to it. There were many different brands represented. This 1967 Triumph Herald I remember well.

 

Never seen this Morgan model. A three wheel two-cylinder car with a very odd look. It has my wife’s attention since it is a convertible, but no, we are not in the market for one.

 

This Austin Healey 3000 MKIII is one of my all time favorite cars. The classic lines and handling are legendary. In addition to these cars, there were many Jaguars, MG’s, Sunbeams, Land Rovers, etc.

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Have a great week!

Up, Up and Away!

What a Memorial Day weekend we had! Unlike some areas in the northeast and the upper midwest, we had three days of fantastic weather. Sunny, in the low 80’s with low humidity; does not get better than this.

There were many events throughout the weekend, so we had a hard time deciding which event to focus on. We decided on the Aloft Balloon festival in Simpsonville, the Scottish festival and a concert to round-up the options. In this post I will be sharing some pictures taken during the balloon festival.

The Simpsonville Balloon Festival is in its 29th year; this being our first attending. We have never been to a balloon festival and had high expectation on what we would see and the photo opportunities it would bring. We have heard of the Albuquerque balloon festival and always wanted to go and see it. Well, the Simpsonville one did not disappoint one bit. We saw 68 balloons go up in the air; what a sight. Well, see below for more…

Wind speed is a critical element balloonist must be aware of before deciding to launch. While the skies were clear, there was a 8 to 10 mph wind that placed the event in danger. After a very long wait for the winds to die down a bit, the green flag was given to start filling the balloons with hot air. It was amazing how balloons started to pop up across the vast field in front of us.

 

After filling the balloon with ambient temperature air using a couple of very large fans; the crew starts to the air inside the balloon with one or two very powerful propane burners. This is not an easy feat, and much care has to be given to assure the powerful flames do not touch the balloon fabric.

 

From the opposite end of this balloon, there are two or three individuals holding the balloon down by tugging on a rope attached to the top of the balloon. They seem to let go once there is the right amount of hot air inside of it. I think it is mainly to avoid the potential of a fire if a strong wind pushes on the partially inflated balloon sides while the burners are on.

 

My wife and I have seen hot air balloons before, but just a couple here and there. Never have we seen 68 balloons go up in the span of 45 minutes. An amazing colorful and majestic sight.

 

While hot air ballooning history shows it as a safe activity, I could not stop thinking of the recent accidents where people were killed in them. Happy to report there were no visible mishaps today. The captain on this balloon seems to be checking clearance from other close by balloons. Having 68 launching at close intervals must make navigation trickier.

 

Captain must remain focus on navigation, while passenger are free to wave goodbye to the crowd. The balloons were actually in a competition; the goal as I understood it was how accurate they were on landing their balloons on a predetermined spot miles away.

 

It is a family and friends effort getting the balloon ready for take off.
Wonder how much these things are; I bet is not a cheap sport.

 

When this balloon went up the crown applauded loudly. A very fitting homage on Memorial day weekend. Thanks to all those who gave their lives to assure our freedoms continue. We must also do our part to assure this.

 

Hard to tell which balloon had the nicest colors; I think this one was in the top five for sure.

 

…and away they go. What a great spectacle. We will make this festival a yearly tradition for us.

 

As the last balloon lifted off we decided to join the concert behind us. You can see some of the balloons well to their destinations to the left of this photo. The concert was held in the Charter Amphitheater at Heritage Park where they hold many concerts throughout the spring, summer and fall. You can see Bethe and Michelle in the aisles looking for a pace to sit. Michelle is our friend from Shanghai we met a month or so ago while shopping in a local store; small world.

 

The group we saw was Andy Grammer. We never heard about this group before, but they were very good. They engaged the crowd in a very effective way. Andy Grammer will be appearing (or one of his songs will be featured) in the next Bachelorette program – never seen it, but I guess it is a big deal.

 

Andy thanking the crowd for their support and engagement.

 

These two gals did not seem impressed by Andy Grammar’s music.

 

As we were leaving the festival, Michelle wanted to ride the ferris wheel. I was wondering why if China has much bigger ones. She told us that the ones in China move very slowly (true); this one spun a lot faster so she had to try it.

 

Here is Michelle and my wife having fun on the ferris wheel. We are planning a day at Six Flags with Michelle; we think she will have a blast with real rides.

Thanks for visiting; have a great week!

Ready to go!

After several years in the planning, I finally retired this past March. I was not sure how retirement was going to affect me, but happy to report that I really have not thought about work much at all. My email, which used to be such a daily drain, is down to just a handful messages from friends. My phone does not ring much at all and I really see no need to keep up with the latest smart phone offerings as mine is being used so sparingly. My calendar, well, it is pretty open and it is real nice to stay up later than usual and get up when you are ready to. Not to say I am turning into a slug, but enjoying the moment as we get ready for our next move and planned activities.

As many of you know, my wife and I agreed to settle in Greenville, SC after much consideration. There are several reasons as to why we chose Grenville; weather was a major factor as was the lower cost of housing as … compared to Massachusetts for example. Greenville is a fast growing city with a strong economy driven by several major global companies such as BMW, Michelin and G&E to name a few of the largest ones. We find the people very friendly and welcoming. You may say…well, you just got there, things may change. This is true on anything, but based on stories from the many people we have spoken to that have moved to the Greenville area it sounds unlikely.

This past Sunday we saw an article by  Ben Stein the popular actor, economist and lawyer based in Los Angeles CA. He visited Greenville recently and praised Greenville and said …”there is no place like Greenville”. I encourage you to read it, it was published in the Spectator; April 2013 issue. To read it please click HERE.

Below I am sharing just a few pictures of Greenville,  you can see a few more on the header of this web page (slide show above).

One of the nicest parks in Greenville has to be Falls Park at the Reedy river. This park is a couple of blocks from main street and it is stunning. I was told that a few years ago this area was in a very sad condition, but someone saw the potential to make it a great are for families and visitors to relax and hold many recreational activities. After a $15 million investment the park was open to the public on 2004. This is a partial view of the suspension Liberty bridge over the falls. I will be having a post covering this park in detail later on this year.

 

On the left you see the Westin hotel on Main Street Greenville; the only 4 diamond hotel in the area. Originally, the hotel name was the Pointsett hotel (opened to the public on 1925).

 

The Peace Center amphitheater where outdoor concerts are held starting in May through October. Expect to visit often. The Peace Center main building is a very nice venue for year around entertainment by well know artists. Bill Cosby performed a couple of weeks ago, the Blue Man group is currently there, and on May 21st Crosby, Stills and Nash will be performing only one night 🙁  Waited too long to get tickets.

 

A portion of the Greenville falls as seen from the Liberty Bridge.

 

Meet Michelle, we met her in one of the food stores near our hotel. I noticed her looking a bit lost so decided to make contact. I asked her if she was from China and she told me – Yes! Shanghai. We met her the first week we arrived in Greenville; she was really happy to meet a couple that just came back from China and we were also happy to meet her and help her getting around a strange area for her. We see her often as we explore together the area. She wanted to buy a camera so she asked me if I could help her; you must know my answer. Here she is taking pictures with her brand new Sony NEX5R. Great camera and she is really getting into it. Actually, she just called my wife…”did you guys had dinner already? …want to go for pizza at Sciortino’s Tratoria? You know what our answer was…yum!

 

Greenville is a very bicycle friendly city; unfortunately our bikes are in storage until we can move in to our home. So, we are taking advantage of the many bicycle and walking trails around the city and suburbs. About 1 1/2 miles from our home there is a trail called Swamp Rabbit trail. This trail is about 17.5 miles long, and from where we will be living it is a 8 mile walk or bike ride to downtown Greenville. We are so looking forward to having our bikes! This is a view from  the Bell Tower located in Furman University. There is a slight detour from the trail that brings you to this spot and you can circle the lake at a brisk walking pace in about 20 minutes.