Yes, not all of us (or even most of us) are Scottish, but thanks to Outlander, we all have an affinity for Scotland and its wonderful people and history. And with the show being basically a love poem to this beautiful country, the combination of fans, grand marshal and parade is inevitable. I had a terrific opportunity to march in one of the two groups of Outlanders United – more than 300 fans in the parade, and hundreds more watching along the route – last week in New York. Unfortunately, those of us in Group B didn’t see our happy Grand Marshal Sam – I’m not sure he knew there were more of us!
The weather felt more like Scotland’s than spring in New York – cold, windy, and rainy – but that didn’t seem to hold back the spirit of everybody marching! There were lots of pipers and drummers, dancers and clans – and, of course, Sam Heughan. My friend Koko Pipkin and I ducked into a bar after we checked in and before we stepped off, and met a great Edinburgh family – Helen and Brian, in New York to celebrate Brian’s 75th birthday, with their three children – daughter Danielle, a travel agent, and twin sons Darren and Derrick, all kilted up and ready to march with Clan Ross.
At the parade’s after-party, we met a couple of the Shetland Island crew – a group of men who traveled from the northern-most point in Scotland to participate in this parade. Kevin, one of the crew, told me that they take a year to design and build their “suits,” and then only wear them for a year before scrapping them and making new ones!
However, because I was marching, I didn’t see much more than the back of the person in front of me! So I asked other Outlander fans to send me their pictures so I could put together a slideshow of the entire parade. I’d like to particularly thank Lynne Thompson and her husband, John Beaman, Rachel Devlin, and Heather Benjamin for answering the call! (Most photos are marked with the name of the photographer – unmarked photos are John’s.) And the music in the slideshow is from piper Andrew Forbes and drummer Michael Morales, who call themselves Scottish Octopus. Andrew performed with our other Outlander-friend piper, Elias Alexander, in front of the Outlanders United Group A, and both played at the Saturday night episode screening (I’ll have more about that in another post). You can purchase the CD that this tune, Jauques Brown’s, is from here.
I asked a couple of our photographers to tell me about their experience. Here’s Rachel Devlin’s day:
I started my Tartan Day Parade day on the train from NJ into the city. When I stepped on board in Newark, I was greeted with lots of kilted gentlemen and even a little boy donning tartan pants! In fact, he was the little boy pictured with Sam squatting down to talk to him. How cute!?! I walked to the parade solo as I wasn’t due to meet my friends until after the parade. I congregated with others in front of the Algonquin on 44th Street waiting somewhat patiently for our Grand Marshall to appear. He ended up slipping out another exit and started the parade without us! I slogged my way up 6th Avenue through rain puddles and a sea of umbrellas. I popped over every once in a while to catch Sam leading the parade, sometimes dancing, and always with a huge, beauty smile wide across his face.I ended up at 55th and 6th and saw the Outlander bus parked at the end of the parade route. Little did I realize that I should have stayed close to that bus to watch the parade because I then would have been right there when Sam boarded the bus to watch the parade himself. Instead, I wandered further over on 55th so that I could watch the whole parade. I am definitely kicking myself now for not going back to that bus area, but I did have a very nice and unobstructed view of the whole parade. I even ran into Howie Nicholby, kilt maker extraordinaire of 21st Century Kilts in Scotland. He was super nice and said that it wouldn’t have been right if the weather hadn’t given us a “proper pissing”!It was fun to watch Sam hamming it up on top of the bus for all of his fans. He really is a joy to watch! I really enjoyed the parade because I am also a big fan of all things Scottish (as well as Irish and Scandinavian). The pipers, kilts, and tartan were a feast for the senses. Somehow, I lucked out and got into the after-party at Papillion with some friends. While Sam was not there, many who were in the parade and watched the parade were there and it was really fun. I also tried Sam’s favorite whisky, Laphroaig, for the first time and I am hooked!!!I finished the night by watching the Season 2 premiere of Outlander at the Director’s Guild Theater on 57th Street. I was so glad that I was able to get a ticket to this because I got to meet more fun Outlander fans and we were entertained by some fabulous pipers, singers and a dancer. The premiere episode was awesome! I’m so glad that I held out and didn’t watch it when it appeared early On Demand. The entire day was wonderful and so much fun. It was a special day devoted to both Outlander and Scotland and I’m so glad that I was able to celebrate both!
And from Heather Benjamin:
My first Tartan Day started with good intentions and naïve expectations. My husband and I found what we thought was a great location to watch the parade just down the street from the VIP grandstand. I had brought a pair of cameras and a GoPro to try and record as much of the parade as I could. Unfortunately I underestimated the power of Sam Heughan and Mother Nature. The parade started with a beautiful serenade by The Highland Divas. We could hear the screams from the crowd and knew Sam must be on his way. Cameras set, I was ready to finally see Sam in person. Sadly Mother Nature had decided to welcome Sam with open arms. Between the press, the security and the umbrellas I didn’t get one decent view of Sam.
Not one to be thwarted I decided to abandon my husband and the very nice people we had befriended to try and leapfrog ahead of the marchers to try and get another chance to see and photograph Sam. Unfortunately I was not the only person with this brilliant idea. Fighting not only the crowd but the umbrellas too I finally managed to make my way to a semi open spot and started snapping away. Just as he passed Sam decided the other side of the street was much more interesting so I didn’t get many shots. At this point I remembered I had promised to take pictures of the Outlander United group and of the rest of the parade so I tried to put Sam out of mind and watch the rest of the parade. This worked for awhile but then I could hear the crowd roaring at the end of the parade route. I dutifully waited until the Outlander United group passed then watched a few more groups before the pull of Sam drew me in again. I decided to go down to the corner to see if I could see him but everyone on the parade route had the same idea. I managed to get a few more pictures but quickly got tired of people waiving their hands and umbrellas in front of my face so gave up and called my hubby to come meet me.
As I was waiting I noticed that Sam was reacting to people behind the bus and decided to cross to the other side of the road to see what was happening back there. My hubby had parked next to a building to try and get out of the rain so I went by myself to see what was going on. As I reached the rear of the bus I noticed that the area was barricaded but only a few people were standing there. As I moved in closer I heard someone say that Sam was coming back and to my surprise I saw him moving down the barricade towards me, signing autographs and even giving one woman a kiss on the cheek. At this point I panicked because the gift I had brought Sam, two small whisky bottles all the way from Denver, was sitting in my bag that my husband was guarding on the other side of the building. Despite the fact that a woman decided to barrel into the pack of people nearly several of us off our feet, I held my ground. Sam passed within a few feet of me and I couldn’t believe I had gotten so close but wasn’t able to give him his gift. With Sam safely back on his bus, I ran and got my hubby and the gift and just hoped that I could get close enough again. I found a good spot to stand and proceeded to get quite a few good photos despite the fact that I had to wipe the rain off my lens every few seconds.
As the parade started to wind down I went back to the barricade and waited. Unfortunately for me, they loaded Sam into his car on the opposite side of where the fans were waiting. I contemplated asking his handlers if I could give the gift to him but chickened out in the end. As the car drove away with the warm feeling that was Sam, the spell was broken. The cold finally became unbearable and I collected my hubby and another nice couple and we went into a local bar to warm up. All in all I got some great photos, met some really great people and actually got within a few feet of Sam Heughan. It was a perfect day!
I can’t leave you without saying a HUGE thank you to the wonderful women who organized the Outlanders United participation in this event and many others throughout the week. While I know some of them, I’m sure I don’t know them all, so I won’t name anyone in particular for fear of leaving someone out. But you know who you are, and we are all grateful for your hard work and dedication in what was often a difficult position.
So for those of you who couldn’t make it, you who marched and didn’t see more than the derriere in front of you, or you who want to relive it, here’s my parade slideshow!