By David Rogers. July 14, 2019. GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN, NC — Approaching from high atop Grandfather Mountain to the Highland Games on McRae Meadows, it’s hard to resist closing your eyes and imagining for a moment that you are William Wallace (AKA Mel Gibson) of “Braveheart” fame.
COVER IMAGE: The Kincaid clan was this year’s featured family, here leading the march in Friday’s opening ceremonies. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Descending from the mountain highlands, through the dense forest, and into the expansive meadows, you espy a vast array of red, white, and blue, broad-striped tents, each adorned with colorful pennants, flags, and banners identifying this or that “regiment.” Surely there is a looming battle to be won.
Any Scottish horde of warriors on this weekend was comprised of a mild-mannered, fun-loving lot, clans representing the Scottish highlands, lowlands and border regions: the Kincaids, the McFarlanes, the Grahams, the McLarens — over a hundred different clans, in all. It took roughly two hours for the Parade of Tartans on Sunday. Some clans had upwards of 50 or more in their “family,” others only two or three. Judging by the license plates seen in the sea of automobiles surrounding McRae Meadows, the Scots and their visitors came from all over to partake of what organizers and participants alike bill as the nation’s largest Highland Games.
Just about the only thing that even half resembled any kind of wickedness was on Friday morning when “Luke,” one of the sheepherder’s demonstration dogs, snuck up behind an unwitting photographer and heisted his leg on the back of the poor lass in front of a couple of thousand onlookers. Everyone got a good laugh, including the photographer as Luke seemed to sport a mischievous grin while relieving himself.
Running Thursday through Sunday, multiple activities were usually going on, simultaneously. You might be enthralled as men in skirts, er…kilts compete in the caber toss — a telephone pole-like device they try to flip over end over end to land straight away from where they tossed it (i.e. 12 o’clock) — but then you’ll miss an engaging performance by a Scottish fiddler going on at the same time. Catch the winsome lasses competing in the Highland Dancing Area, but be sure to turn around so that you can watch the athletic ladies heaving the 12-pound “hammer” or the 13-pound “stone throw.”
Not to worry, though, because variations of almost every activity occur on almost every day of the Highland Games. For those old souls seeking spiritual sustenance, there are whiskey workshops, as well as a Sunday morning worship service.
Got a competitive, athletic mindset? Well, if turning the caber isn’t your cup of tea, you might try the kilted mile, kilted quarter mile, or kilted dash.
Scottish culinary fare aplenty was onsite, from Meat Pies to Mutton, as well as foods broadly adopted by the Scottish immigrants and their guests, such as cheeseburgers cooked up by the Avery County Fire Department, Carolina BBQ, and wood-fired pizza.
Don’t spend too long watching the children’s wrestling clinics or else you’ll miss out on the fascinating Tartan Weaving workshops in the Scottish Cultural Village.
Did you have an opportunity to hear Orville Hicks’ “Jack Tales?” The North Carolina Heritage Award winner spins mountain yarns with a twinkle in his eye.