A  group of volunteers from Laya Central School has been preparing to exhibit some of their local costumes and textiles that are nearing extinction at the third Royal Highlander Festival that begins tomorrow.

The group called Young Volunteer in Action (YVIA) has woven seven local hats unique to Laya, three pieces of local skirt called Zhom, and souvenirs. These products will be exhibited until October 24 in Langothang, Laya.

The cone shaped bamboo hat that the women of Laya used to wear has now become a rare spectacle. The community now uses imported wool to weave the Zhoms.

The volunteers took about a month to learn the skills of weaving the hat, traditional skirt and souvenirs from yak’s wool. A local expert trained the student volunteers.

Gyem Tshering, a teacher and YVIA coordinator, said that the exhibition was aimed at promoting the local products and costumes at the festival.

“These local cultures and identities are given less attention today. We feel that this would help the community realise the importance of their culture and unique identities. The exhibition would also encourage young students to preserve what is by tradition and culture their own,” said Gyem Tshering.

The annual festival brings together highlanders from other parts of Bhutan and promotes their unique traditions and cultures. The festival held above 4,000 metres is also a platform to exchange cultures, knowledge,    skills and practices related to highlanders and yak farming.

The annual festival organised by Gasa dzongkhag began 2016.

Most residents of Laya are home at this time of the year. Herders have descended from the mountains. Collection of cordyceps, herbs, incense, and the harvest of crops are completed.

The men in Laya are busy ferrying tourist visiting the place.

Pema Wangchuk from Laya headed a few kilometres down to Taktse Makha set up a stall. He said that the festival helped him earn good income last year. “I made at least Nu 2,000 a day. I wish to provide good service.”

The festival also brings together athletes and people from other dzongkhags to participate in the Laya Run, a 25-kilometres long cross-country race.

The run begins from Ponjothang. Runners will have to hike along the banks of Mochhu until the Taktsemakha army camp. The run ends at Langothang, the festival’s venue.

Nima Yoezer and his four friends are in Gasa to take part in the run. Nima Yoezer finished sixth in the second edition of the Laya Run last year.

“I hope to perform better this time. I came well prepared for the event this time,” he said.

The highlander festival began in 2016 to mark the Birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey, the 60th Birth Anniversary of His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, and 400 years of Zhabdrung’s arrival in the country.