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Celtic Music and More: Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Are Back, July 9-12

By Jessica Isaacs

More than 100 clans will gather at Grandfather Mountain this weekend to celebrate Scottish heritage at the annual Highland Games. Get ready to join in the festivities, because this weekend-long event has something in store for everyone.

If you’re no stranger to the annual celebration, you may be all set to participate in some of the ongoing athletic competitions. But if you’re new to the world of Scottish tradition, you may be more interested in checking out the Celtic music.

Kellen Short of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation said plans for the weekend’s events are coming together and that everyone’s excited for the annual games.

“Grandfather Mountain is the host and the location of the games, but most of the hard work happens through the Highland Games, Inc., which is a separate nonprofit,” Short said. “Their guys deserve the credit for this incredible amount of work that goes into it.

“At this point, they’re just putting on the final touches. Tents are in place and campers have arrived and are already enjoying themselves. We’re just crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s to make sure everything goes just as smoothly as ever this year.”

This year’s event will include the competitions in traditional heavyweight Scottish athletic events, highland dancing competitions, bagpipe band parades, sheep herding and Scottish border collie demonstrations, the annual “raising of the clans” and much, much more. (Click here to learn more about what’s going on at the Highland Games this weekend).

If you’re interested in learning more about Scottish heritage but you’re not familiar enough with the culture to join the games, try attending one or both of the Celtic music concerts happening on Friday and Saturday nights.

“There are separate tickets just for the concerts themselves if you only want to come to the concerts, so that is a possibility,” Short said. “One thing to note is that the Celtic Rock concert is on Friday and the Celtic Jam is on Saturday — those were reversed in the past, so [make sure to note the schedule change this year] if you’re looking for a certain type of music.”

According to Short, Friday night’s Celtic Rock concert will be “an all-out heavy rock performance complete with drums and an incredible rhythm.”

“It’s a really neat concert if you’ve never experienced Celtic rock. This year we will feature Seven Nations again, one of the leading Celtic rock bands in the nation,” she said. “They’re just incredible. They have drummers, a piper and an amazing violinist.”

If you’re looking for more traditional Celtic music, stay tuned for Saturday night’s Celtic Jam session.

“The headliner is John Doyle, who I understand is renowned in that field. This concert is a little more traditional,” Short said. “It’s not going to be the same crazy, high energy rhythm as the rock concert, but it’s really an opportunity to see these artists come together and experiment with the genre and give both traditional and innovative looks at Celtic music.”

Whether you’re ready to jump right in to the athletic competitions or you’d rather sit back and soak up the Scottish culture, the annual Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain have something in store for you.

“You know, I think these concerts are a really easy access point for a lot of people. You don’t have to be an expert on Scottish history or understand any rules like you might have to in an athletic competition,” Short said. “You don’t have to exert yourself like you would in ‘the Bear’ [5-mile uphill foot race]. The concerts are really a good snapshot of Celtic music and it’s something everyone can enjoy.

“For a lot of people, it’s a good way to learn something new, too. They may not get a lot of experience seeing this kind of music live, but this is certainly a fine opportunity for people in our area to do that.”

Check out the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games online for a schedule of events, to get tickets and to start planning your weekend.


Youtube video by Benjamin Reed from last year’s Celtic Jam:

Youtube video by Benjamin Reed from last year’s Celtic Rock concert:



Campers are setting up and it’s almost time for the annual Highland Games! Check out these photos (by Ken Ketchie) from Grandfather Mountain taken on Monday: