Highland Games moving to Maryville

June 23, 2010
Contacts: Clifford Fitzsimmons, President, Smoky Mountain Highland Games
865.368.2543; celt1@bellsouth.net

Karen B. Eldridge, Director of Communications
865.981.8207; karen.eldridge@maryvillecollege.edu

Jane Groff, Events Coordinator, City of Maryville
865.273.3401; jmgroff@ci.maryville.tn.us

MARYVILLE, Tenn. – Without even tossing the caber or running the Kilted Mile, Maryville may feel like celebrating a win.

Board members of the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival and Games, Inc., announced Tuesday that they would be moving their annual event from Mills Park in Gatlinburg to the Maryville College campus in 2011.

The event, scheduled for May 20-22, will be hosted jointly by the College and the City of Maryville.

"The Maryville College facilities, location and the school's Scottish ties, as well as the support promised to the Games by all parties, made this a perfect fit for us," said Clifford Fitzsimmons, president of the non-profit organization. "From a crowd capacity standpoint, our Games had simply outgrown the space available in Mills Park."

Fitzsimmons added that his board also voted to change the name of the event to "The Smoky Mountain Highland Games" and the non-profit's name to reflect the change in location.

Last month, the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival and Games hosted its 29th celebration of Scottish heritage, which was attended by more than 3,000 paid attendees, according to the president.

"The Games featured 43 clan tents, an array of vendors, a collection of some of the Southeast's premier pipe and drum bands and a night-time Celtic music festival with both traditional and Celtic-rock appeal," Fitzsimmons explained. "The games are an excellent opportunity for people to experience a bit of Scotland and in many cases, in East Tennessee, we have people who discover their surname has Scottish origins."

The schedule for the three-day event typically includes a gala and banquet, Scottish athletics such as Highland wrestling and tossing the sheaf, pipe and drum band competitions, Highland dance competitions, other friendly competitions such as the Bonniest Knees Contest and the Haggis Toss, featured Scottish entertainers and children's activities. Celtic-themed vendors sell a variety of Scottish items, including clothing, jewelry, music and food.

Fitzsimmons said several Games in the South have been adversely affected by the economy, but not the one held in Gatlinburg.

"We have been fortunate to have been able to hold firm and expand what we offer," he said. "Hopes are high, however, that the added space and convenience of Maryville will help these Games grow even larger."

The facilities committed by the College include the varsity soccer field, the football practice field, intramural fields and adjacent green spaces, the McArthur Pavilion and the House in the Woods.

"The College has an established relationship with the Games' Board," said Dr. Gerald W. Gibson, president of Maryville College. "Members use our facilities for meetings, and they have joined with us in planning Scottish-themed celebrations. When discussions turned to hosting their big annual event here on campus, we were extremely interested.

"Given the College's founding by Scots-Irish Presbyterians and our strong Scottish heritage, we believe our hosting will be a win-win for the College, the Games' organization, the City of Maryville and the wider Blount County community," the MC president added.

Gibson pointed out that it's not unheard of for college campuses to be the locations of Highland Festivals and Games. Alma College in Michigan, Radford University in Virginia and Furman University in South Carolina all host successful events.

Speaking on behalf of the city, Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor said he was thrilled by the opportunity presented by the relationship and predicted "unprecedented success" for the Games in Maryville.

"The longstanding success of these Games, along with the celebration of Scottish heritage, is a perfect fit with our community and Maryville College. The Scottish history in this county is abundant, and we feel that all ages will benefit from the exposure to this part of our heritage," Taylor said.

As members of the Games' Board finalize their decisions for the 2011 schedule, the City will be working with Maryville College and the Games to provide more details and information to the community in the coming months.

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The mission of the Great Smoky Mountain Highland games is to preserve and further the heritage, culture and traditions of Scotland by presenting festivals and games that promotes the perpetuation of Scottish culture and history through traditional Scottish sports, dance, music and the rich cultural traditions and folklore of the Scottish clans. To provide an affable venue for the recognition and celebration of Scotland rich legacy and pageantry through performances, demonstrations, education, and competition while remaining a viable leader in family entertainment and good stewards of our assets, giving back to the Scottish community whenever possible.