Pleasanton-Blairgowrie-Fergus Sister City Organization Shares Culture in Many Venues

Undoubtedly the most visible display of Scottish culture in the area occurs over Labor Day, when the Caledonian Club of San Francisco presents the Scottish Highland Gathering & Games at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds. But there are many other events and activities that link Pleasanton to the country known for its tartans, bagpipes, whisky, and, now, mechanical cows.

Yes, mechanical cows. As part of its support of "all things Scottish," the Pleasanton-Blairgowrie-Fergus Sister City Organization (PBFSCO) played a significant role in the recent acquisition of Fiona, the mechanical cow, now comfortably ensconced at the Alivso Adobe Community Park off Foothill Road.

PBFSCO President Karen Burton-Lind explains: "The naturalist at the park wanted a cow for the milking barn, so visitors, especially children, could have the experience of milking." However, a live cow was deemed too much of a responsibility, so a group started to investigate alternatives. Most of the mechanical versions they found were considered "too cartoonish," but then someone mentioned a company in Scotland that made a more lifelike model. "My ears pricked up when I heard Scotland, so I went to our board and proposed that we help with the project," Burton-Lind continues.

In addition to donations, PBFSCO actively followed the cow's progress during her 5,000-mile journey to Pleasanton, no mean feat with U.S. Customs questioning what such a large crate might contain. Fortunately, Fiona arrived just in time to be introduced to the community at the 2011 Hometown Holiday parade. The organization also kicked off a contest to name the fiberglass animal at its annual Burns Supper in late January.

This year, the supper, a tribute to the Bard of Scotland, Robert Burns, will have a bit less suspense, but it will be just as spirited when party-goers convene at the Pleasanton Marriott on Saturday evening, January 26, 2013.

The observance of Burns' life and work is always a signature event, complete with a recitation of his famous "Ode to a Haggis." The attire is "Highland formal," with men in kilts and Prince Charlie jackets and women in evening dress. "We have a chance to get 'sparkly,'" Burton-Lind comments.

The duo Men of Worth will regale guests with their unique blend of Scottish and Irish folk music. Members of the Foothill High School Pipe Band will also have a chance to demonstrate their nascent piping skills, rapidly progressing thanks to a grant from PBFSCO for practice chanters, the step before learning the actual instrument.

Formed in 1994, PBFSCO connects Scotland's Blairgowrie and Canada's Fergus, Ontario, with Pleasanton in a loop of mutual friendship and cultural exchange. The communities frequently share accounts and photos of local people and events, such as the Fergus Fall Fair and Blairgowrie's prize-winning "Blair in Bloom" gardeners. The latest news surely sparked many smiles, as another U.S.-Scotland sister city arrangement, between Boring, in Oregon, and Dull, in Perthshire, was announced.

In addition to the Burns Supper, the primary fundraiser that supports student exchanges, scholarships, and other cross-cultural opportunities, PBFSCO is planning a group ride on the Flying Scotsman, the train that runs through Niles Canyon, this spring. Its Kirkin 'O Tartan event is regularly in November.

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