North Carolina

59th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games underway

59th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

AVERY COUNTY, N.C. - It's a tradition that's been going on now for 59 years -- the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, a gathering of Scottish clans from all over the world to Western North Carolina.

The annual event just keeps getting bigger and bigger each year, simply because of the sheer number of Scots who settled here in the Southern Appalachians.

Before the weekend is over 150 Scottish clans will have gathered in a meadow at the foot of Grandfather Mountain to take part in the 59th annual Highland Games. 

Folks have been gathering up here the second weekend in July for years and years. "20 years and there's so many people in this campground that are so much younger than me. They were raised here, spent their first year alive here. There are 40-year-olds here and they've been to 40 of these games. With just 20, I feel like a child," Says Doug Leonard with the Gunn clan.

The field on this day was given over to the kids to learn all about one of the games to take place, old-fashioned wrestling. 

Learning about the heritage is an important aspect of this gathering, helped along by the Saint Andrews Society. "We help Scottish games all over the southeast, even over in Scotland.  We've sent people over on scholarship to Scotland. We're all about the kids because the kids are the future. If you can't keep them interested and having fun with their heritage, then it won't survive," Leonard said.

"Without these young men and women getting involved in this thing, it's got no place to go. You plant the seed very early and teach them.  Hopefully eventually they'll get hooked and come back around," says Mike Sharpe with the Donald clan.

The games run through Sunday. The torch-lighting ceremony will take place at sunset Thursday and the clans will announce their presence at the games.

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