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Grandfather Mountain Games
Avery County, North Carolina
2000 Games
Thanks to Michael Craig for this information
Click on images to see the larger picture!

vendorsFriday morning arrives and I am eager to get back on the mountain.  Each day at GMHG has it’s own rhythm. This day, the meadow opens up and the vendors start arriving in earnest.  Already the sun had come out and the forecast is for a gorgeous weekend with mild temperatures and broken sky's.

My sister Debby and Cousin Donna immediately start a rigorous campaign of shopping.  Each tent is reconnoitered, scrutinized and cataloged for potential purchases.  No garment is left  untouched, no book unbrowsed, no jewelry not held up and appraised.  These after all are “professionals”.  By day’s end both they and the merchants are pleased. Fine wool caps, sashes and scarfs in our family clan tartan were purchased along with matching accessories of course.   For my part, I deferred to my own in house expert, who would be arriving later on in the day.

Climbing GM  Climbing GM

As preparations continued in the meadow, We elected to drive to the top of Grandfather Mountain to scout out some camera angles and take in the sights.  Driving up the switch backs and gaining altitude by the fistful, I gained even more respect for the runners of the “Bear”.  The first leg from Linville to the MacRae meadows was steep, but the balance of the run was greater yet, a constant upward path.

Suspension BridgeOnce on top, you behold a wondrous view all the way into Tennessee. There, rising up from the parking lot stands the famous “mile high” suspension bridge and  a visitor’s center.  This rock redoubt. houses a shop, refreshment stand, weather station, observatory platform and museum. The weather station sends out information from the mountain world wide which is used in forecasting.  The structure resembles a fortress for a reason.  Winds here can easily reach Hurricane Force and beyond during certain times of the year.

Sandwiched in between the 1st and 3rd floor of this building is the workshop of Thomas Wolf.  Do not miss Mr. Wolf!  He is a master woodcarver and his shop houses  wondrous examples of his handicraft. I can’t prove it, but he just may be in fact Santa Clause come south for the summer.  At any rate, a nicer fellow you will not meet.

Jeanne PeakSooner or later, you have to decide whether to walk over the bridge.  It is a sound metal structure and when the wind blows, it gives off the sound of a pipe organ.  What a treat to be there, just under the heavens, with the sound of angels humming in your ears.  I am afraid that the camera just does not do justice to the great depth and perspectives you see with you own eyes.  The Morton’s have kept the mountain true to it’s nature with a minimum of understated appointments.  Small signs ask you take care and show some common sense.  There is a smattering of tarmac here and there to even up the trail, other than that, you see only what God created.

Michael, the authorAnd what a visual feast it is, with unending vista’s, craggy rock formations and a bird’s eye view of the world.  I sat there spellbound, watching hawks riding the air currents below me, soaring this way and that then suddenly soaring up and over me, performers with out peer  in a natural air show.

After an hour or two of climbing out on the rock promontory, I reluctantly headed back, saving the many trails for another day.  Midway on the mountain however is yet another treat, the natural habit at and museum where you can view animals native to the area in a natural environment.

Tom Wolf  Games from Peak

There are eagles, otters, deer, cougars and of course bears.   In the deer section two fawns were playing tag among the trees.  Their speed and agility were a delight as they first ran 60 or 80 yards one way and then stopped on dime only to immediately charge off in another direction.    Down from them, the bear cubs were having a wrestling match under the watchful eye of mama bear. There was no clear winner so the whole crowd adjourned to the pool for a dip and then up onto the rocks for a nice midday nap.

Eagles Cougar
 Bear Bear Cubs

Back down in the meadow I walk around to sample some of the music workshops.  The sun has come out heating the field up to a toasty 80 degrees.  I ducked in one of the shaded areas to observe William Jackson, a harpist and composer of international standing, going over the finer aspects of the Scottish Harp with Rita Hamilton.  Although I know little or nothing about harps, I find it fascinating to watch as the harpist fingers dance over the strings.  It seems that most Scottish harp techniques and arrangements have been passed down orally and very little is written.  In that tradition, Mr. Jackson passes on his expertise and the sheer joy of learning was observable as each musician tried out the lessons on their instrument.

Rita Hamilton William Jackson

Gail L’esperance - Our Mystery LassMy next port of call as it were was to watch Alex Beaton performing on the fiddle.  While there I found last years “Mystery Lass”, taking in the concert on the hillside.  Her name is Gail L’esperance and like many, she returns each year clothed in period costume to take in all that is GMHG.  These beautiful garments, the kilts and dresses, the swords and skins make the games a visual treat and provide a fair measure of fun for the wearers.

Later that evening, preparations are getting underway for the Celtic Jam.  As I have said before, there is something for everyone, young, old or in between.  This night time concert in the meadows blends Scottish music with Rock n’ Roll.  Celtic Jam lives up to it’s name with bands Seven Nations, Clandestine, Celtic Soul, Cuillin, Full Moon Ensemble and Bad Haggis. The energy of these entertainers is simply incredible. Ancient instruments are paired with screaming guitar’s but it is the bagpipes and fiddles that steal the show.

G.G.McQueenSitting there under the stars, listening to Clandestine’s G. G. McQueen pulling raw emotion out of his fiddle you wonder how much better can it get?  Then the fog machines started... and through the mist you heard the rumbling of the drums...the wail of the pipes and you are off again.

The pictures speak for themselves.  This is a first rate production with the stage crews bringing off a technological tour de force.  No matter where you sat, the acoustics were terrific. I was down front with the press photographers and that high energy I spoke of was a real challenge to preserve on film.  The guys with film camera’s were smoking down their motor drives hoping that something would come out. Even with the immediate feedback of my digital camera, I was lucky to get one out of five focused shots.. but I not complaining.

Trying to photograph Seven Nation’s Dan Stacey is a kin to trying to bottle lighting.  His fiddle blazes as he dances and moves like a wraith around the stage.  Only slightly less animated is Lean Singer/Song Writer Kirk McLeod who mesmerizes you with with haunting ballads and adrenalin charged jigs.   Then there are the electrified bagpipes of cot Long. Nothing can so energize a Celtic crowd as a masterfully played set of pipes.  When Scot joins in with the wail of the drones, it’s as if the entire cast of “Braveheart” has been let loose. From the roar of approval going up, you half expect to turn around and see a wall of blue painted faces, claymores and battle axes held high. The kicker here is that at Grandfather, this is a distinct possibility.  Why see Braveheart when you can live it?

Seven NationsSeven NationsClandestine

It was past midnight before we headed down the mountain.  Once again the meadow was quiet with only the sounds of crickets and night creatures to break the stillness.   During this down time the valiant grounds crews went over the hills, groves, track and fields with a fine tooth comb so that when Saturday rolled around, the entire area was restored to it’s pristine condition.

Celtic SoulRoadies7 Nations

One footnote about Celtic Jam.  If you wanted more, the bands play individually in the groves during Saturday and Sunday all during the day.  You are as likely to see the members walking around the games as anyone else.   I must say, they are approachable and friendly.   And if you missed Friday night’s Jam,  Come Saturday night, a second concert is played at MacDonald Stadium at Avery Country High School.

7+clandestine Kirk McLeod

and onto Saturday...


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