In Ireland, the distinctive honking of bagpipes lures lads and lassies into the streets, pubs and restaurants with their seductive siren call. But here in the Treasure Valley, you don’t have to follow their sound to get a St. Paddy’s Day fix — just sit back and enjoy your pint as the Boise Highlander bagpipe band comes to you. The Highlanders will be performing at various venues throughout St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Thursday, March 16 through Saturday, March 18. There are four “teams” of about 10 people to cover each of these events simultaneously.
On St. Patrick’s Day, every Highlander “dresses up like crazy,” said Ron Lopez, former piper and band manager. “They get into it, and the audience gets into it,” he said. On March 17, the Highlanders will cover much of Boise’s local restaurants and bars. Some to look out for are Barbacoa, Bardenay, Tom Grainey’s and Humpin’ Hannah’s. The full schedule is below.
Lopez has been playing bagpipes since he was 20 years old and had his first practice with a professional instructor when he was 31. He said that in 1964, he met his wife at a bagpipe band practice; they have been married for over 40 years. The tradition has been passed through their family to Lopez’s son, who is also a bagpipe player.
The Boise Highlanders were established in 1961, and they are not a competition band. That “takes tremendous dedication,” Lopez said. Teams put in a lot of hard work with the hope of winning prize money at competitions. This just is not worth it to Lopez, he explained, as the prize money barely pays for gas and travel time. Most of the Highlanders perform for the enjoyment of the instrument and culture. The group mostly performs for events such as birthdays, the Fourth of July, funerals, and, or course, on St. Patrick’s Day.
For many members, the unique instrument is what brings them together in a deep bond. “The pipes is the only thing they have in common,” he said. They practice every Thursday night and it is open for the public to attend.
For their biggest event of the year, “everyone wears a kilt,” said Lopez, along with other “St. Patrick’s Day bling.” The pipers and drummers wear traditional Davidson tartan, a type of plaid design, and dancers are encouraged to wear tartan of their choice to add some pizzaz and flair to the look of the band.
“Organizing four teams is like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Lopez, and “it is a tremendous amount of work.” For those once-a-year Irish lads and lassies, the entertainment is well worth the trouble. Come out and support the Highlanders at their St. Patrick’s Day shows. (And be sure to wear green so you don’t get pinched.)
The Highlanders St. Patrick’s Day 2023 scheduleThursday, March 16Hooligan’s 5 p.m.; The Hide-a-Way 6 p.m.
Friday, March 17Quinn’s noon; Stagecoach 2 p.m.; The James Kitchen 2:45 p.m.; Hyde Park Pub 4 p.m.; Lindy’s 4:30 p.m.; Hooligan’s 5 p.m.; Coa De Jima 5 p.m.; Harp 5 p.m.; Barbacoa 5 p.m.; Tavern at Eagle 5:30 p.m.; Rudy’s at 10 mile 5:45 p.m.; Hide-a-Way 6 p.m.; Tavern at Bown Crossing 6 p.m.; Butte 6 p.m.; Rudy’s Overland 6:15 p.m.; Quinn’s 6:30 p.m.; Bardenay 6:30 p.m.; Old Chicago Mall 6:45 p.m.; Butte 7 p.m.; Ten Barrel 7 p.m.; Hyde Park Pub 7:15 p.m.; The Curb 7:15 p.m.; 13th Street Pub 7:30 p.m.; The Ram Boise 7:30 p.m.; Bittercreek 7:30 p.m.; Parilla Grill Hydepark 7:45 p.m.; Ram Meridian 7:45 p.m.; Owyhee Tavern 8 p.m.; Parilla Grill Fifth/Idaho 8:30 p.m.; Gil’s K-9 8:30 p.m.; Hannah’s 9 p.m.; Jim’s Alibi 9:30 p.m.; Tom Grainey’s 9:30 p.m.; Quinn’s 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 18Hide-a-Way 1 p.m.; Harley Davidson 2 p.m.; The James Kitchen 5:30 p.m.; Suds 6 p.m.