The GMHG Press Room

2021 Press Release



Scottish Gathering To Resume In-Person in Linville, NC after 2020 Virtual Gathering

LINVILLE, NC (January 21, 2021) – Bagpipes, kilts, and tartans representing dozens of Scottish clan families will once again gather for four days of festivities at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (GMHG) in Linville, North Carolina July 8-11, 2021.

The 2020 event was moved to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the GMHG board of directors are moving forward with plans for this summer on MacRae Meadows atop Grandfather Mountain while closely monitoring current safety guidelines from the state of North Carolina and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“We are excited to announce plans to be back on Grandfather Mountain the second weekend in July and get back to all the great traditions of this Scottish gathering-from a variety of music to highland dancing and Scottish athletic events,” Stephen G. Quillin, Grandfather Mountain Highland Games President, said.  “We’ll welcome more than a hundred Scottish clan associations and their members as well as honored and distinguished guests from Scotland while offering everyone in attendance the opportunity to be immersed in traditions and activities as old as the Scottish Highlands.”

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games once again will begin with Thursday night’s Torchlight Ceremony, where the clans officially come together to celebrate their Scottish heritage. Friday and Saturday are filled with highland dancing competition, border collie demonstrations, Scottish fiddle and harp competitions, Gaelic singing, Scottish country dancing, piping and drumming competitions, Scottish spinning and weaving, track and field events including the popular kilted mile, and Scottish athletic events including the caber toss. Other popular features include the Grandfather Mountain Marathon and “The Bear,” a five-mile race that begins at the foot of Grandfather Mountain and climbs up to a height of 1,568 feet.

Celtic music abounds throughout the four-day event, and those in attendance will have the opportunity to sample traditional foods and take home items with a flavor of the Scottish homeland. The event’s final day features the Kirkin (blessing) of the Tartans of the Scottish clan families gathered for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and the majestic Parade of Tartans, with approximately 1000 participants representing more than 100 clans and family associations.

Quillin added that the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will observe guidelines and safety precautions for everyone in attendance at the July event, as set by the state of North Carolina and the CDC.

For more information and to reserve tickets for the July 2021 event, go to or call 828-733-1333.

About the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games: Founded in 1956, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (GMHG) is a non-profit, non-stock corporation licensed under the laws of the state of North Carolina to carry on and promote the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans; to foster and restore interest in traditional dancing, piping, athletic achievement and Gaelic culture; and to create and establish scholarship funds to assist students from Avery County (NC) High School to study at American colleges and universities.

Media Contacts:

Jennifer Licko
Communications Director
[email protected]
910 338 0787

COVID-19 Operating Plan

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games 2021
COVID-19 Operating Plan

March 17, 2021  Revision 0

Submitted by Stephen Quillin, President of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Inc.

[email protected]

919-641-7992 (c)

Executive Summary

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is scheduled for July 8th through July 12th, at MacRae Meadows in Linville, NC.  Since 1956, the Games has been held at MacRae Meadows every year except 2020.

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Board of Trustees is committed to holding a safe and responsible event.  All attendees are being strongly encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID if they possibly can, and to wear masks, wash hands, and socially distance when possible.  Warnings about the risk of COVID are prominently featured on our website, and we are advocating for responsible behavior with respect to COVID before, during, and after our event. 

Current projections are often a moving target, but there seems to be a consensus that most American adults will be vaccinated by May 2021.  Even those vaccinated by the middle of June will have time to build up full immunity prior to the July 8th start of our Games.

As we near the date of the games, this plan is subject to revision and approval in accordance with North Carolina restrictions and CDC and guidelines.

Indoor Events

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Board has cancelled our traditional indoor events due to COVID concerns.  We hope they can resume in 2022.  Events cancelled for 2021 include:

  • Patron’s Reception (held in the Best Western in Banner Elk)
  • Scottish Country Dance Gala (held in the Lees MacRae gym)
  • Scottish Cultural Village (held in a large tent with sidewalls on the field)

Onsite Camping

Camping is allowed as a part of our Festival.  Camping begins July 2 and ends July 12.  The Grandfather Mountain Board of Trustees has established a cap of 80% of the 2019 population of campers in order to allow more space between campsites.  Campsite gatherings for sessions around a campfire or communal meals, which are traditionally part of the camping experience, will be limited to a maximum of 50 people.  Sanitizing stations will be strategically placed in the campground.

Shuttle Busing

Shuttle busing is provided for the majority of Highland Games attendees.  There will be three shuttle bus lots provided in the Linville area, and one in Boone.  All four shuttle bus stations, guests will be required to wear masks while standing in line and while riding shuttle buses.  The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will have a limited number of masks available should they be needed.  Drivers will be instructed not to allow anyone without a mask onto a Games shuttle bus.

Sanitizing Stations

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will provide hand sanitizing stations at shuttle bus lots, camping areas, and various locations around MacRae Meadows.

Events at MacRae Meadows

  • General

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will have masked and gloved attendants working in the credit card ticket sales booth and the wrist band will-call booth.  A hand sanitizing station will be adjacent to the area.

  • Vendors

Vendor tents will not be allowed to conduct business with side curtains dropped.  Side curtains will only be permitted to divide vendor tents.  Attendance in vendor tents will be limited to 50 people at a time.

  • Food Vendors

Food servers will be masked and gloved.  All guests will be required to wear masks while waiting in food lines.   Anyone who refuses will be asked to vacate the area.

  • Bleachers

Guests will also be required to wear masks while sitting in the bleachers.  Anyone who refuses will be asked to vacate the area.

  • Grandstand

Attendance in the Grandstand will be limited to officials, announcers, and invited guests and performers.  Anyone not meeting those criteria will be asked to vacate the area.

  • Hospitality Tent

Anyone working or visiting the Hospitality Tent must be masked.  Anyone who refuses will be asked to vacate the area.

  • Music Groves

Anyone working or visiting the Music Groves must be masked unless onstage performing.  Anyone who refuses will be asked to vacate the area.

  • Parade of Tartans

Participants will be required to wear masks while they are in line and waiting for the Parade to begin.  Once participants enter the track, they may remove masks and social distance for the parade.

  • Scottish Cultural Village Tent

The typical Scottish Cultural Village lectures will not occur this year.  The tent will be erected but no side panels will be installed.  The Games staff will provide 100 chairs instead of the normal complement of 200+, and the tent space can be scheduled for different family groups who wish to hold meetings.  No more than two meetings may be scheduled concurrently.

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