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Highland Games ready for annual four-day competition

A parade of pipers circles the field at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The Games return for their 63rd year July 12-15. Photos by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation


By Tamas Mondovics


Grandfather Mountain is ready to host the 63rd Annual Highland Games this week.
The competition held on July 12-15 is promising of bagpipes, Scottish athletics, Highland melodies, Celtic cuisine, crafts aplenty and tons of tartans, as the Games take attendees back in time to the rich cultural traditions of Scotland in a setting not so different from the mountains and glens some 3,600 miles away.
The event begins Thursday afternoon, with Border collie sheepherding demonstrations, Celtic entertainment, the running of “The Bear” and the opening ceremonies.
Saturday will see the test of extreme endurance as the Grandfather Mountain Marathon winds from Appalachian State University in Boone to the site of the Games in Linville.
During a torchlight ceremony on Thursday evening, representatives of more than 100 clans are prepared to celebrate their heritage and to announce their families’ participation in the gathering.
Guests often bring dinner or purchase concessions at the field to enjoy a picnic at the opening ceremonies.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday will once again be filled with competitions in traditional heavyweight Scottish athletic events, highland dancing competitions, bagpipe band parades, piping, drumming and harp competitions, sheepherding demonstrations by Scottish border collies and concerts, featuring a colorful soundscape of Celtic music.
The nation’s top Scottish athletes clash Saturday in traditional heavyweight events, such as “Turning the Caber” and “Tossing the Sheaf.”
In the caber toss, athletes flip a telephone pole-sized log end over end. The sheaf toss challenges athletes to loft a 16-pound sack of hay over a bar more than 20 feet high.
Other ancient tests of strength await the contestants, including highland wrestling, the hammer throw and various weight throws.
Children are by no means left out of the festivities, as the Games will again host youth highland wrestling clinics and competitions, foot races and tug-of-war battles.
None would be complete was it not for the Games’ musical offerings including sets by Seven Nations, Nic Hudson, Rathkeltair, Scottish Octopus and Blue Ridge Brass, while the Saturday Celtic sessions feature Alasdair White, Ed Miller, Chambless and Muse, Seamus Kennedy and Piper Jones Band.
Other performers throughout the weekend’s daytime musical offerings include Billy Jackson & Gráinne Hambly, Atlantic North, Brothers McLeod and Marybeth McQueen.
The event is truly history in action as visitors get a chance to learn about their own Scottish ancestry and genealogy at clan tents or browse the open-air market for Gaelic and tartan gift items.
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 last from early morning to midnight Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $5 each day for children ages 5-12, and children younger than 5 enter free.
Parking is available at the Games on Thursday and Friday on a first come, first served basis, with overflow parking at shuttle lots in Linville Friday only (no shuttle buses run on Thursday). Public parking is not available at the Games on Saturday and Sunday.
For tickets please call (828) 733-1333, or email [email protected] For more information about the Games, visit