Tacoma’s St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church honors Celtic Christianity at annual event

Standing in the basement of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, 8-year-old Elion Alison had his first hands-on experience with Scottish Highland Games.

Alison balanced a lighter, smaller version of a caber on his palm before hurtling it over a black plastic pipe. (The adult version of “tossing the caber” involves tossing a roughly trimmed tree trunk end over end.) Next he participated in the “sheaf toss,” using a snow shovel to throw a stuffed bag over the goal. (Adults use a pitchfork to throw a bundle of hay over a bar).

“I really liked the shovel,” Alison said. “It’s like launching a cannon ball.”

Alison, who lives in Vancouver, Washington, was visiting his grandparents in Tacoma. They took him to the church’s 8th annual Celtic Faire because his grandfather David Evans recently joined the Blue Cloud Celtic band, which was performing at the event.

“I think it’s fun,” said Deborah Evans, David’s wife and Alison’s grandmother.

“I didn’t know what to expect because I just came to listen to the music, but I’ve been impressed,” she said. “We might have to start making this an annual event.”

Those are the types of reactions Rev. Martin Yabroff likes to hear.

The church holds its annual Celtic Faire to celebrate the ancestry of its namesake: St. Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, home of Celtic Christianity.

But it also holds the event to build a sense of community, not only among members but also the larger community, Yabroff said.

“It’s the people,” he said of what he enjoys most from the two-day event. “The community gathering is exciting.”

Saturday’s activities included live performances throughout the day from area Highland dance groups, Irish step dancers and Scottish country dancers. There was also live music, including bagpipe performances.

Lunch items like Shepherd’s pie were available for purchase, and attendees could sit down for prepared high tea for $15. Vendors also set up around the church, some selling Celtic-themed goods.

Money raised from the event helps benefit the church, which donates 10 percent of its income to community organizations.

Church member Edward Sterling showed up dressed in his clan’s colors from his balmoral hat to traditional kilt hose. The 94-year-old University Place resident has attended the event since its beginning, offering a nod to his MacGregor clan ancestry.

“At my age every time I put this on might be my last,” the retired Army Chaplain joked about wearing his kilt and other traditional Scottish attire. “I thoroughly enjoy it all.”

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467