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The 59th Annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Returns to the High Country July 10-13

by Madison V. Fisler

July 7, 2014. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have in a kilt! The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games return July 10-13 at MacRae Meadows, to celebrate the 59th year of the annual celebration.

The 59th annual Highland Games kicks off this Thursday with thousands of Scots decked out in their finest tartan plaids showcasing and participating in various events that give praise to the rich culture of Scotland. This year, more than 100 clans will be participating in this gathering, and events will include athletic events, dance competitions, bagpipes, parades, music competitions, sheep herding demonstrations, Celtic music, “The Bear” and much, much more. 

The schedule of events for the gathering is as follows:

Thursday, July 10

  • 11 a.m. – Children’s Wrestling Clinic
  • 4:30 p.m. – Picnic and special entertainment
  • 5 p.m. – Sheep Herding Demonstration with Bill Coburn
  • 5:30 p.m. – Ed Miller at Review Stand
  • 6 p.m. – TBA
  • 6:30 p.m. – Ed Miller
  • 7:10 p.m. – “The Bear”
  • 8 p.m. – Sheepherding Demonstration with Bill Coburn
  • 8:30 p.m. – North American Academy of Piping
  • 9:25 – Torchlight Ceremony

Friday, July 11

  • 8 a.m. – MacRae Meados opens. Reliminary music and athletic competitions begin. Heavy scottish athletics begin.
  • 9:30 a.m. – Highland dancing pre-championship competition begins
  • 10 a.m. – Opening ceremonies, harp workshop, storytelling, Gaelic week class 
  • 11 a.m. – Sheepherding demonstration on the main field
  • 11:30 a.m. – Children’s highland wrestling clinic 
  • 12 p.m. – Storytelling with Orville Hicks
  • 12:30 p.m. – Harp workshop
  • 1 p.m. – Exhibition of dance, sheepherding and Gaelic sing-along
  • 2 p.m. – Storytelling with Orville Hicks
  • 2 p.m. – Lochaber trump
  • 2:30 p.m. – Sheepherding demonstration
  • 3 p.m. – Gaelic sing-along
  • 4 p.m. – Harp workshop
  • 6 p.m. – Celtic Jam gates open
  • 7:30 p.m. – Patron’s and sponsor’s reception and gala
  • 8 p.m. – Scottish Country Dance Gala

Saturday, July 12

  • 6:30 a.m. Grandfather Mountain Marathon begins
  • 7:30 a.m. – MacRae Meadows opens
  • 8 a.m. – Profession Scottish Athletic Events/Amateur Scottish Heavy Athletic Events
  • 9 a.m. – Opening ceremonies and massed bands
  • 9:30-11 a.m. – Track and Field registration
  • 10 a.m. – Celtic Groves entertainment begins. Storytelling with Orville Hicks
  • 10:30 a.m. – Scottish Adult Wrestling competition, Gaelic Sing Along
  • 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. – Scottish Country Dancing
  • 11 a.m. – Harp competition, sheepherding competition
  • 12-4 p.m. – Track and field events
  • 12:30-2:30 p.m. – Sheepherding demonstration
  • 1 p.m. – Storytelling with Orville Hicks
  • 1:15 p.m. – Professional Caber Toss
  • 1:30 p.m. – Scottish Children’s Wrestling Competitions, Marathon winners announced
  • 2 p.m. – Scottish Fiddling Workshop
  • 2:30 p.m. – Sheepherding demonstration
  • 3 p.m. – NC Provincial Gaelic Mod 
  • 3:30 p.m. – Scottish Fiddle Performance
  • 4 p.m. – Harp Workshop
  • 6:15 p.m. – Celtic Rock Concert Gates Open

Sunday, July 13

  • 8 a.m. – MacRae Meadows Opens
  • 8 a.m. – Scottish Heavy Athletics Demonstration and Clinic
  • 8:15 a.m. – Pre-worship service music with Blue Ridge Brass and Montreat Pipes and Drums 
  • 9 a.m. – Worship service
  • 10 a.m. – Celtic Grove Entertainment Begins
  • 10:30 a.m. – Parade of Tartans/Introduction of Guests of Honor
  • 11 a.m. – Special Sword Dance
  • 11:15 a.m. – Sheepherding demonstration
  • 11:45 a.m.- Storytelling with Orville Hicks
  • 12 p.m. – Track and field for kids
  • 12:30 p.m. – Master Heavy Athletic Events, Scottish Athletic Events (over 40), Junior and Intermediate Scottish Athletic Events, Piping Quartet and Drumming Competition begins
  • 1 p.m. – Scottish Country Dancing
  • 1:15 p.m. – Storytelling with Orville Hicks
  • 2 p.m. – Clan Tug-o-War on main field, Scottish Fiddle Performance by David Gardner
  • 2:30 p.m. – Sheepherding competition 
  • 4 p.m. – Closing ceremony

The Highland Games After Dark will begin on Thursday, June 10 after the Torchlight Ceremony. During the ceremony, the clan leaders announce the presence of their clans and invoke the spirit of the clans in a traditional Scottish experience. 

One of the biggest highlights of the Games are the musical concerts, jams and workshops. Musical guests at this year’s Highland Games include Brian McNeill, John Doyle, Seven Nations, Ed Miller, Chambless and Muse, The Freestylers of Piping, The Red Wellies, The Good Set and Jamie Laval. Many of the groups also perform during the day in the Celtic Groves. 

imgresThe Friday Night Celtic Jam will feature headlining act Brian McNeill. McNeill has performed around the world for more than 43 years. Other participating artists will include Seven Nations, Ed Miller, Chambless and Muse, The Freestylers of Piping, The Red Wellies, The Good Set and Jamie Laval. The Celtic Jam will run from 7-11 p.m. Also on Friday night is the Scottish Country Dance Gala at Williams Gymnasium at Lees-McRae College. The Gala will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 for dancers and $10 for spectators. 

The Saturday Night Celtic Rock Concert will feature headlining act John Doyle along with Seven Nations, Freestylers of Piping and many more. Tickets for the concert are $15 for adults and $5 for children. 

According to a press release: 

At this year’s event, more than 30,000 people are expected to attend. This event is sponsored by Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Inc., GMHG is a nonprofit, non-stock corporation licensed under the laws of North Carolina to carry on and promote the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans, to foster and restore interest in traditional dancing, piping, athletic achievement and Gaelic culture, and to create and establish scholarship funds to assist students from Avery County High School to study at American colleges and universities.

Adult admission to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is $15 Thursday, $20 Friday, $30 Saturday and $15 Sunday. Tickets cover all activities in the meadows, which on Friday and Saturday last from early morning to midnight. Tickets are $5 each day for children ages 5-12, and children younger than 5 enter free. Tickets purchased at the entrance must be paid in cash.

Four-day passes are also available online here. Adult passes are $75, and children’s passes are $20.

Parking for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is available on a first come, first served basis on Thursday and Friday. Public parking is not available on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a shuttle service between MacRae Meadows and the parking areas located in Linville, Newland and Boone. Shuttle fees depend on the distance between lots and the destination. The shuttles will only run during the day and will not be available in the evenings. 

For more information about the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, call 828-733-1333 or visit www.GMGH.org.