PLEASANTON -- As the sun set over the Pleasanton hills Saturday, John Malcolm stood watch over his tri-tip and chicken in a sleeveless T-shirt and a kilt.
Malcolm, an Antioch resident, was having some beer and sharing abalone diving stories with Stockton resident Travis Curtiss and San Francisco resident John Hardstone, both of whom were also still half stuck between their role-playing attire and modern-day dress.
All three were from different clans that could potentially clash during the day at the annual Scottish Games festival, but that night, nothing was better than roasting meat on the barbecue and simply chatting about life both inside and outside of the event.
The men were among thousands who flocked to the Alameda County Fairgrounds to celebrate the 147th annual gathering of people from all over the country to honor a country deeply rooted in tradition and pride -- Scotland.
Visitors witnessed medieval history repeated with stunning accuracy, even if there was more than one Mary, Queen of Scots roaming the festival grounds. Actual swords were used during staged combat, women wore impressively wide hoop skirts, and men were decorated for their valor.
By day, men and women played their roles -- from chamber maids to chamberlains. A few even held high positions in the royal court. At night, they dawned sweatshirts and jeans, returning to the land of today and leaving the highlands of yesteryear at bay until the next morning.
Malcolm, an electrician during the week, heads out routinely on weekends to Scottish festivals, where he is known as Sir Ian, a knight of the Guild of Thistle House.
Behind Malcolm in an adjacent field, Richard Brown, of Niles, was wearing a furry cap that was made to look like a husky and joking around with passers-by.
"I don't look as intimidating," said Brown, who is also the leader of the Highland Warriors, one of the largest role-playing clans at the event.
None of these interactions were seen during the day, as all stayed steadfast with their character portrayals. Actors became appalled if festivalgoers did not address the queen as "Her Highness."
At night, however, the lines between houses and guilds blurred and everyone mingled. There were no "sirs" or "ladies," only a "Joe" here or a "Cheryl" there.
After actors enjoyed a feast, they wandered back to the parking lots hidden by trees in the rear of the fairgrounds, where cloth tents and carpets of animal fur were traded for RVs and electricity.
Some sat back and sipped on drinks. Others gathered around with blankets and watched movies projected onto the sides of trailers. Only a select few were able to stay inside the fairgrounds, and that was solely to protect their group's various swords, battle axes and shining armor.
In one day, a slice of life from medieval Scotland was shifted into a snapshot of modern-day life of those keeping Scottish traditions alive.
If they stood "divided" due to honor and glory for their guilds during the day, by the time dinner was ready, even Karen Shaw, one of the Queen Marys, was sitting down among "commoners" to enjoy a hearty meal, using paper plates and plastic utensils like everyone else.
"We are a family here, and we are a family outside," said Teage Seaton, of San Jose.
Contact Katie Nelson at 925-847-2164 or follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.