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Scottish Games and Highland Gathering returns, moves to new location

Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 5:17 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 5, 2021 at 7:29 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The 50th annual Charleston Scottish Games and Highland Gathering returns this year after being canceled because of COVID restrictions last year.

This year, it got a new location for the event, moving from Boone Hall in Mount Pleasant to Riverfront Park in North Charleston for the first time.

Robert Walker is Games Chairman and Vice President of the event.

“We truly loved Boone Hall, but as we continued to grow, it became logistically a challenge,” Walker said. “Riverfront Park’s given us the space we need. It’s a little over twice the size of what we had a Boone Hall, so we’re excited to be up here and excited to be able to grow our games.”

John McKnight is President of the Scottish Society of Charleston which puts on this event. He says this is the second oldest Scottish Games and Highland Gathering in the southeast, behind the one in Grandfather Mountain.

He says a large group of Scottish and Irish immigrants came to Charleston hundreds of years ago and this event allows them to celebrate their heritage.

Anyone is invited to the games, and McKnight expects people from all over the country to attend and participate.

Attendees will be able to watch the Olympic-style athletic games competition.

This includes the caber toss, weight throws, and tug o’ war. The games also include highland dancing, drums and bagpipes, and scotch tasting.

“This is to represent the Scottish heritage,” McKnight said. “Most the people will be in kilts.”

He says everyone competing will be wearing a kilt.

They have 90 people signed up just to participate in the piping and drumming competition right now. He adds 49 clans are registered to attend, which is the largest number they’ve ever had. Everyone from Scotland is associated with a clan, based on their names.

The Scottish Games have 22 bands planning to come and over 50 vendors. Those range from food, clothes, kilts, and anything Celtic.

They’ll also have a genealogy tent where you can learn about the history of your name and where it originates.

“First off, it’s a lot of fun,” Walker said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. We traditionally spend about 10 months building these games, two to three meetings a month. We’ve got hundreds of volunteers and the same people usually end of doing it year, after year, after year.”

The Scottish games kick off Saturday at 8 a.m As of Thursday morning, they have already pre-sold between 3,500 to 4,000 tickets. You can buy those ahead of time or at the gate. Tickets are $20 if you buy in advance and $30 at the gate.

They expect up to 8,000 people to attend this weekend, with about half coming from out of state.

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