McRae Meadows during Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Photo: Hugh Morton
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
Held every year, the second full weekend in July,
near Linwood, North Carolina amidst spectacular mountain scenery,
the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is the largest assembly of
clan society members in the world. Scottish-Americans, Scotch-Irish
Americans, Scots and would-be Scots converge each year on two
rock-strewn pastures, known as MacRae Meadows, in the shadow of the
tallest peak in the Blue Ridge chain, the 5,964-ft. Grandfather
Mountain. Attendance figures have soared to between 30,000 and
40,000 from a start of approximately 1,500 in 1956. The Games were
started as a one-day event, but have since been extended to three
days of traditional entertainment and competitions.
The Games open with a Hill Race on Thursday afternoon
and an impressive Torchlight Ceremony on that evening to "summon
the clans." On Friday, in the Highland Games, "heavies," beefy
athletes clad in kilts, throw weights for distance or height; twirl
the Scottish hammer, a cannon-ball attached to a wooden shaft; toss
tree trunks end-over-end (the "caber toss"); or "toss the sheaf"
(pitch-fork a 20-pound sack of hay over a crossbar). In track
events which have been a major feature of the Grandfather Mountain
Highland Games from the beginning, athletes in more conventional
athletic garb, i.e. running shorts, compete in track competitions
such as one- and two-mile foot races, sprints and dashes, high
jumps, triple jumps and pole vaulting. For a time, archery,
fencing, and a sailboat regatta on Loch Dornie at the Grandfather
Golf and Country Club were featured, but later abandoned.
Other events include the Tug o' War, the Kilted Mile
(for adults) and the Kilted Quarter Mile (for children), and a
Kilted Clan Mile, where a representative of each clan races for
their "kith 'n' kin." A Grandfather Mountain Marathon extends from
Appalachian State University's stadium in Boone for 26.22 miles
over up-hill terrain. The "Bear," a Hill-Race to the summit of the
peak of Grandfather Mountain, is an example of another traditional
Highland game which can't be replicated at another location.
Athletic competitions are only a part of the
festivities. One of the crowd pleasers each year is a demonstration
of sheep herding by border collies. In the wooded glades beyond the
athletic track and fields, there are simultaneous competitions in
piping, drumming, Highland dancing, Scots fiddling, playing the
Celtic harp, and Jews harp. There is also
dancing in which costumed couples weave intricate patterns. On
Friday night, a "Celtic Jam," live entertainment of Celtic and
mountain music, takes place, followed on Saturday by an outdoor
Celtic Rock concert. In the "Celtic Groves," three tree-shaded
areas, running continuously during the three days of the Games are
performances by instrumentalists and vocalists offering a variety
of music, from folk songs in the Lowland Scottish dialect to
bluegrass. A Gaelic Sing-a-long offers phonetic helps to allow
visitors to sing folk songs in the mother tongue. Children's
activities include face-painting, sack races and tug 'o war.
Genealogists are on hand to trace visitors' Scottish ancestry. And,
of course, there are meetings of clan societies. More clan
societies -- now totaling 175 -- congregate here than in any other
part of the world.
The most popular event is the célilidh,
a Friday evening of entertainment: singing, piping, dancing,
fiddling, harping. But a great part of the appeal of the Games is
the location itself, in an area reminiscent of the Scottish
Highlands, where those Scottish by birth or by interest gather to
celebrate their heritage.
Project documentation comprises an extensive 29-page
written report entitled "America's Braemar," by Donald F. McDonald,
co-founder of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games; eight 8 x 9
black-and-white photos, sixteen mounted color photos of various
sizes, and a color panoramic photo of MacRae Meadows; a
, A Guide to the Highland Games; a complete set of
programs for each year of the games (1956-1999); four posters from
past Games; multiple copies of a promotional brochure for the July
2000 Games; and 4 videotapes showing excerpts of the 1981, 1985,
1994, and 1996 Games.
Originally submitted by: Jesse Helms, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.