Let The Games Begin!

Every year in the Grandfather Mountains of North Carolina, there are celebrations called the Highland Games, that are held over a period of several days in the month of July. These celebrations consist of many sport and music activities which are a continuation of traditions that were started by the Scottish people many centuries ago in Scotland. After the Battle of Culloden in Scotland in 1746, which the highland Scottish people lost, laws were implemented to prohibit the Scots from practicing many of their cultural traditions such as the wearing of kilts, speaking of their Gaelic language, use of the bagpipe and weapons and the highland gatherings. Because of this infringement on their personal lives and freedom, many Scots chose to leave Scotland for the opportunities that were presented to them by the local governments of North Carolina. In America, the Scottish were able to continue their traditions, including the highland gatherings, without fear of persecution. As time passed, however, many of their traditions were lost.

However, in 1956, after a trip to Scotland and seeing a highland gathering, a man by the name of Donald MacDonald was inspired to once again continue the tradition back home in North Carolina. Along with the help of a lady by the name of Agnes MacRae, who provided the land, they formed the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. This tradition has continued every year since then.

HG 2016

This year the games will begin on July 7th and continue until July 10th. On July 7th, starting at 4:30PM, there will be music provided by Scottish Entertainment Traditional Celtic Music. There will also be sheep herding , which will continue throughout the day. The first major activity on July 7 consists of a footrace called The Bear: Assault on Grandfather, and will have 800 runners on a 5-mile race with a climb of over 1500 feet from the town of Linville to the top of Grandfather Mountain. The Torchlight Ceremony, which officially opens the event, will announce each clan’s arrival to the games.

On July 8, MacRae Meadows and Celtic Groves open with activities available throughout the day, starting with a preliminary athletic competition, sheep herding, children’s tent and field activities, history and genealogy studies at clan’s tents, a highland dancing pre-championship and the Lochaber Trump competition in the Harp and Fiddling Tent. At 6:30pm there will be the Celtic Rock Concert at MacRae Meadows and the Scottish Country Dance Gala will take place at 8:00pm at Lees-MacRae College.

highland games competition

One of the most difficult marathons in the country, the Mountain Marathon, which starts in Boone and ends here, takes place on July 9. The Highland Dancing competion, along with the Children’s Wrestling competition and many others also take place on this day. The day’s activities end with the Celtic Jam at MacRae Meadows.

The final day of the celebrations, July 10th, starts with the Scottish Heavy Athletic Demonstration and Clinic, followed by the Scottish Worship Service. Athletic competions are held this day and there will also be a parade where all members of the sponsoring clans will march.
The day ends at 4:00pm with closing ceremonies.