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

Morning Mists45th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Thursday morning found me rolling through the mountains on Hwy 105 S. out of Boone North Carolina towards Linville, a small hamlet at the base of Grandfather Mountain.   The road twisted and climbed through lush green vegetation dripping in the morning mist.  Powerful thunderstorms had boomed through these valleys the previous night like the artillery of the gods.  In the aftermath, dense moist clouds cloaked the peaks, spilling down down the mountain sides muffling all sound in their path.

But weather changes quickly in the western mountains of the Carolina and by the time I arrived to meet with Harris Prevost, Vice President of Grandfather Mountain, the sun was already burning off the top cloud cover.

We discussed the history of GMHG and I found out that although they are neither the largest nor the oldest of the Highland Games in the United States, they are certainly one of the crown jewels.   Nestled below Grandfather Mountain, the location conveys the very essence of the Scottish Highlands.   Natural bowels ring the track and field on MacRae Meadows, which is buffered by miles of dense woods leading down to the valley below.

Raising the ClansThe very character of the event is like a family reunion, church social, 4th of July concert, home town athletics and history lesson rolled all into one.   No noisy midway rides or carny hucksters hyping trinkets here.  Instead, you find a more gentile entertainment that harks back to a simpler time.   The vendors lane is stocked with wools from Scotland and other Celtic oriented wares and on the whole, I found them to be of excellent quality.

Although these games are bucolic in nature, running in the background, is a well oiled machine composed of volunteers and staffers who maintain the grounds, stage the events and cope very well indeed with the logistics of moving large amounts of people and material.   These unsung heroes are at the core of why GMHG is the fine annual affair that it is.

ProcessionTwo of the more notable events occurring on Thursday evenings are the “Bear” and the “Raising of the Clans”. The foot race know as the “Bear” kicks off in Linville at 7:00 PM and lives up to it’s fierce name.  This grueling race to the top of Grandfather Mountain climbs 1,568 feet vertically.  Truly, it is one of the most challenging, and beautiful courses in the U.S.

Watching these heroic runners circle the field before heading ever upward to the summit of the mountain puts you in the right mood for the "Raising of the Clans".  This ceremony  is based on the ancient call to battle for the clans and is a moving experience whether you are of Celtic heritage or not.

Picture if you will, sitting on a grassy field, surrounded by thick lushly foliated mountains far away from the noise and lights of civilization.  The sun has passed on and the sky is inky black.  Arrayed along the four lines of the compass stands a representative of each clan, each bearing a single torch.  In the center of the field is mounted the saltire cross, a symbol of the Scots from times long passed.   It stands man high and in the shape of a pyramid.

Saltire Cross.jpg (85836 bytes)As the ceremony begins, one by one, the Clan torch bearers come forward proclaiming their presence with relish.  Cries of  " Lock up your women and animals...the MacDuff's are here!", "From the borderlands, Clan Campbell stands read to answer the call" pierce the darkness.  Some speeches are short, some formal and some a hoot!  As each Clan announces itself, it’s members and supporters roar out, their shouts echoing up the sides of the mountain as their torch is placed on the saltire holder.

This continues until the roll had been fully called and the last torch placed upon the cross.  Around this flaming structure the clansmen join hands forming a great circle and the benediction is intoned. Sitting there, it was as if you were in a meadow hundreds of years distant in the highlands of Scotland.  With only the flickering of the flames providing light, the sound of the bagpipes summoned phantoms from the darkness of time.  The great ring stands unbroken, the Scots again return to celebrate their heritage.

Circle of Clans

And on to Friday...


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