By Nathan Ham
The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games had to cancel last year’s annual tradition for the first time since the games started in 1956. This year, thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations and smaller numbers of infections, the Highland Games will fire right back with as much normalcy as possible.
“We are excited to announce plans to be back on Grandfather Mountain the second weekend in July and get back to all the great traditions of this Scottish gathering-from a variety of music to highland dancing and Scottish athletic events,” Stephen G. Quillin, Grandfather Mountain Highland Games President, said. “We’ll welcome more than a hundred Scottish clan associations and their members as well as honored and distinguished guests from Scotland while offering everyone in attendance the opportunity to be immersed in traditions and activities as old as the Scottish Highlands.”
The games are scheduled for July 8-12 at MacRae Meadows in Linville. All attendees are strongly encouraged to receive their COVID-19 vaccine prior to attending the games.
For safety purposes, there will be numerous hand sanitizing stations set up around the shuttle bus lots, camping areas and various locations around the game sites. Three traditional indoor events, the Patron’s Reception, the Scottish Country Dance Gala and the Scottish Cultural Village, have been canceled once again with the hope of returning in 2022.
Onsite camping will be allowed, beginning on July 2 and ending on July 12. Camping numbers will be limited to 80 percent capacity to allow for additional space between campsites.
Shuttle buses will continue this year as usual with three shuttle bus lots in Linville and one in Boone. You will be required to wear a mask while standing in line and while riding the bus. You will not be allowed on a shuttle bus without a face covering.
Once at MacRae Meadows for the games, patrons will be required to wear masks in the bleachers, in the hospitality tent, waiting in line for food and visiting the music groves.
The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games once again will begin with Thursday night’s Torchlight Ceremony, where the clans officially come together to celebrate their Scottish heritage. Friday and Saturday are filled with highland dancing competition, border collie demonstrations, Scottish fiddle and harp competitions, Gaelic singing, Scottish country dancing, piping and drumming competitions, Scottish spinning and weaving, track and field events including the popular kilted mile, and Scottish athletic events including the caber toss. Other popular features include the Grandfather Mountain Marathon and “The Bear,” a five-mile race that begins at the foot of Grandfather Mountain and climbs up to a height of 1,568 feet.
Celtic music abounds throughout the four-day event, and those in attendance will have the opportunity to sample traditional foods and take home items with a flavor of the Scottish homeland. The event’s final day features the Kirkin (blessing) of the Tartans of the Scottish clan families gathered for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and the majestic Parade of Tartans, with approximately 1000 participants representing more than 100 clans and family associations.
For more information and to reserve tickets for the July 2021 event, go to gmhg.org or call 828-733-1333.