Mary Katherine Murphy
LAURINBURG — Scotland County’s Highland Games , a celebration of Scottish history and culture, begins Saturday at the John Blue House in Laurinburg.
The games are a continuation of a decades-long tradition that began in Robeson County. It will run from 9 a.m to 4 p.m.
“There was a similar event in Red Springs for about 30 years and that event was discontinued six years ago,” said event Chairman Bill Caudill. “When the announcement was made there my phone started ringing; people felt that this is the area where the Highland Scots settled and there should be this kind of event in this area.”
The event has grown each year since it took root in Scotland County in 2008.
“The response has been excellent simply because we were getting started at a time when the economy was bad,” Caudill said. “There were a lot of other festivals and games in the Southeast in particular that had fallen by the wayside due to lack of interest, lack of volunteers, and lack of finances to make it happen.”
Competitors will test their skills at traditional Scottish activities like piping, drumming, highland dancing and the caber toss. Signed up so far are 78 solo competitors in piping and drumming, with 30 competitors in athletic events; 30 Highland dancers; and 11 pipe bands.
Caudill estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 people will attend as spectators.
“This year is going to be our biggest and best event yet,” he said. “This year we’ve got a great turnout on the participation side of things, now we just hope everybody will come out and take a look and find out more about it.”
About a dozen vendors will sell their Scottish goods at the games.
There will also be no shortage of activities for children.
“The kids events are always a big thing because we have miniature versions of all of the athletic events,” Caudill said. “We’ve even had miniature kilts made so that kids can be like the big guys out on the field — tossing miniature cabers and things like that.”
Children can sign up to participate by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or registering by 11 a.m. the morning of the games.
Admission to Saturday’s games is $10 for adults and $3 for children at the gate, with discounted advance tickets available at the Laurinburg-Scotland County Chamber of Commerce, Bob’s Jewel Shop, and Shirt Tales in Laurinburg.
There will be additional opportunities to join in the celebration outside of the games themselves.
“We actually have some events going on in conjunction with the games that have fleshed out the weekend as a whole,” said Caudill.
The weekend’s pageantry will begin today with a whiskey-tasting seminar at 3 p.m. at Hampton Inn in Laurinburg. Advanced registration for the seminar is required. Then, at 8 p.m., Angus McColl, whom Caudill describes as “one of the best pipers in the world,” will perform at Avinger Auditorium on the St. Andrews University campus.
Following the games on Saturday, a Ceilidh will be held at St. Andrews’ William Henry Belk Center at 7:30 p.m. Admission to the Ceilidh, a sort of Scottish square dance with beer and light refreshments, is $10 at the door.