DUNEDIN — Performers were dressed to the kilt Saturday night, as the Dunedin Highland Games and Festival Committee presented its annual Military Tattoo, a musical massing of Scottish clans, flags, bands and Celtic dancers.
The Tattoo kicks off a week of Scottish-themed parties and events, with the biggest and brawniest celebration, the 43rd annual Dunedin Highland Games and Festival, scheduled for this Saturday.
The Tattoo was held in the Memorial Stadium at Dunedin High School, where the "ancient" castle — a plywood relic about 25 years old — had been replaced with a new one.
"It had seen its day," said Frank Cioffi, spokesman for the Dunedin Highland Games and Festival Committee.
The new gray structure was fashioned from 24 panels of polystyrene foam and aluminum, making it much lighter, sturdier, durable and easier to erect and dismantle, he said.
A plethora of piping and drum bands passed through its entryway onto the field and played favorites like Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave.
The Berkeley Preparatory School Highlander Band from Tampa put a rock spin on its Celtic-style music with some help from their electric guitarists Toby McAdams, Connor Stonesifer and Will Allread.
The band is the Piping Association of North America's newest member; this was the group's inaugural field show.
And, it was announced that this was the first time Dunedin Highland Middle School Band performed as an "entirely kilted unit," thanks to fundraising efforts and donations.
Sandy Keith, president of the Highland Games and Festival Committee, said the focus this year was on dance.
"We thought we'd mix things up a bit," he said.
Dance groups came from Spring Hill, Dunedin, Tampa and as far as Nova Scotia.
The Celtic Touch Dancers of Canada raised funds for two years to make a trip to Florida, said Cioffi. They will perform at Disney World this week and return to compete in Saturday's Highland Games in Highlander Park.
The Stephen Scariff Irish Dancers of Tampa added some spice with their flying footwork and Riverdance-style leaps.
Dee Stultz was introduced as this year's Chief of the Games. She was a Highlands dancer and teaches line dancing at the Largo Recreation Center and at the Scottish American Society. She has five children and five grandchildren.
Last year, the show ended abruptly after the heavens opened up with rain about halfway through the program.
But as bad weather threatened Saturday's Tattoo, the Dunedin Highland Games Committee decided to slash gate prices from $15 to $10 per ticket.
"Many of our guests were thankful for the reduced ticket cost, especially in these difficult economic times," Cioffi wrote in an e-mail.
Proceeds from the Tattoo and Highland Games help support the three Scottish bands of Dunedin: the City of Dunedin Pipe Band and Dunedin's high school and middle school bands.
"This is the only Tattoo held in Florida," said Mike Dunlap, president of International New World Celts with almost 2,000 members. "Dunedin is unofficially Florida's Scottish capital."
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at email@example.com.