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Smoky Mountain Highland Games set for May 17-19 at Maryville College

MARYVILLE, TN -- The third annual Smoky Mountain Highland Games will kick off Friday, May 17 at Maryville College with diverse Celtic entertainers and massed bands. Most activities during the Games will occur on Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19. The event is for everyone, including kids and families.

Along with Maryville College, the City of Maryville and the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority serve as hosts for the Games.

Tickets are available now for purchase online at the Scottish festival and games’ website

The official kickoff for the Games is a gala reception at 6:30 p.m., May 17, in the William Baxter Lee III Grand Foyer of the Clayton Center for the Arts at Maryville College. A formal sit-down dinner of Scottish fare is planned, followed by a traditional haggis ceremony. Tickets must be purchased in advance at the Games website.

The Highland Games are officially underway May 18 at 8 a.m., when gates open for the games, pipe and drum competitions and sales by vendors. Opening ceremonies begin at noon with massed bands. Visitors will enjoy Scottish country dancing, Border collie demonstrations and children’s activities, as well as competitions that include massed bands, piping and athletics.

A massed band concert and awards ceremony is planned at 4:30 p.m., and a special Ceilidh Under the Stars takes place at 7 p.m. A ceilidh (pronounced “kay-lay”) is a traditional Gaelic social gathering that typically involves music and dancing.

Most activities and competitions will take place in the southeast part of the campus.

celtic martins
The Celtic Martins, formerly known as The Martin Family Band, from Southeastern Pennsylvania is an exciting, energetic group that features traditional Celtic music as well as Irish step dancing. A performance by The Celtic Martins will feature the musical ability of five of the Martin children, ranging in age from 9 to 18, accompanied by their parents on guitar and bass, and drummer, Earl Pyles. Although the fiddle is the dominant instrument in a performance by The Celtic Martins, shows also include several other instruments such as the Irish whistles, concertina, mandolin, bagpipes, and percussion. Their shows also feature some Irish step dancing by the Martin sisters.

Scottish athletic competitions are a key part of any Highland Games. They honor and celebrate the culture and heritage of Scotland.

Numerous competitions among individuals and clans during the weekend include traditional events such as the caber toss, stone put, Scottish hammer throw, sheaf toss and Maide Leisg (“Lazy Stick”). Clans will compete in events such as the Kilted Mile, Bonniest Knees, Haggis Toss and tug-of-war contests.

Numerous piping and drumming bands, including the Knoxville Pipes and Drums, will be present for competition and massed band performances throughout the weekend. Individuals may compete for first-place awards in piping, drumming and conducting.

Expanded Celtic entertainment and dancing are planned throughout the weekend.

Musical acts include Colin Grant-Adams, who combines American/Scottish folk and bluegrass in his both contemporary and traditional songs; the Celtic Martins, a family ensemble who feature traditional Celtic music as well as Irish step dancing; Enter the Haggis, a Canadian Indie/Scottish folk rock band and Uncle Hamish and the Hooligans, a Celtic rock band based in western North Carolina.

Several activities will appeal just to children and families. Children ages 6 to 14 may compete in kid versions of the caber toss, haggis toss and the kilted sprint. Participants in the games must wear some form of a tartan.

Award-winning Border collie trainer Bill Coburn will lead a sheepdog trails demonstration as part of Saturday’s events.

A Scottish worship service is tentatively scheduled for 9:30 a.m., May 19, at one of the College’s athletics fields. The service also includes a “Kirking of the Tartans,” a Scottish-American custom that involves a parade and roll call of the clans in attendance, performances of Scottish hymns and a homily of Scottish history.

A Massed Bands Presentation, Parade of Tartans and Tribute to Veterans are all scheduled for 1:15 p.m. A Scottish dog parade and talent show open to all visitors is also planned.

The Games end at 3 p.m., with closing ceremonies that include all pipe bands playing “Amazing Grace.”

The public is urged to visit the Games website at for schedule updates and information.

In keeping with tradition, the Smoky Mountain Highland Games honors a special clan. The featured clan for 2013 is Kennedy. The clan chief is Lord Ailsea, Charles Kennedy.

Published May 15, 2013

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