Smoky Mountain Highland Games set for May 18-20

Smoky Mountain Highland Games set for May 18-20

April 9, 2012
Contact: Mary Leidig, Director of Marketing


For the second consecutive year, thousands are expected to descend on the campus of Maryville College for the 2012 Smoky Mountain Highland Games. Visitors will enjoy an even greater variety of Celtic entertainment and expanded massed bands during the event scheduled for May 18-20.

“Last year’s attendance and community support exceeded expectations in every way,“ said Clifford Fitzsimmons, president of the Smoky Mountain Highland Games. “We had visitors from all over the country and from other countries. We know this year’s event will be even more exciting.”

The regional event is the 31st festival and games, now in its second year at Maryville College. Its first-year debut in 2011 at the East Tennessee college saw nearly 7,000 visitors attending the event. Most activities take place Sat., May 19 and Sun., May 20.

Along with Maryville College, the City of Maryville and the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau serve as hosts for the Games.

“If you are new to the Smoky Mountain Highland Games or returning, we want you talk with our folks at the clan tents and discover your own Scottish roots,” Fitzsimmons said.

Tickets are available now for purchase online at the Scottish festival and games’ website Tickets are available at the Blount County Chamber of Commerce in Maryville and at the Clayton Center for the Arts box office at Maryville College.

Gala kicks off Games May 18

The official kickoff for the Games is a gala reception at 6:30 p.m., May 18, 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. Additionally, visitors can enjoy a parade in downtown Maryville, featuring pipe bands and entertainers.

Gates open to public May 19

The Highland Games are officially underway May 19 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 can enjoy Scottish country dancing, Border collie demonstrations and children’s activities, as well as competitions that include massed bands, piping and athletics.

The 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. Other campus locations include the Proffitt Dining Room at Pearsons Hall.

Scottish athletics competitions

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.

Scottish music, dance abounds

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; and Father Son and Friends, a traditional Celtic band with Scots-Irish roots. Rounding out the entertainment is Albannach, an exciting Scottish tribal drumming band.

Weekend for kids, families

Several activities will appeal just to children and families, says Fitzsimmons.

“The weekend events include games just for the children. We hope visitors will check out these activities for children on Saturday and Sunday,” he said.

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.

Worship service planned May 20

A Scottish worship service is tentatively scheduled for 9:30 a.m., May 20, 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.

The Massed Bands Presentation, Parade of Tartans and Tribute to Veterans are all scheduled for early afternoon. 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.

Hay is featured clan

In keeping with tradition, the Smoky Mountain Highland Games spotlights a special clan. The honored clan for 2012 is Hay. Representing the Hay clan at the Games is Kent Hay Atkins, who is Fear-an-Tigh (Man of the House) to Sir Merlin Hay, Chief of Clan Hay and Lord High Constable of Scotland. Atkins lives in Wilmington, N.C.

Also attending as an honored guest is James Graham, his Grace the 8th Duke of Montrose, who lives in Glasgow, Scotland.

Visitors can also expect to see many clan members from around the country.

Event sponsors include BB&T Corporation, McGhee Tyson Airport and Sonic Corporation.

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,197.