HEART OF THE BLUEGRASS: Glasgow Highland Games Celebrates Family | MadSocial

LUCAS – The weekend after Memorial Day for more than three decades, people from across the United States and other countries converged at Barren River Lake State Resort Park for the Glasgow Highland Games.

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“It’s family,” said Kerry Overfelt, who started competing there over 20 years ago and was the athletic director of the Legends National Scottish Athletics Championship which took place this year, attracting 86 athletes. – more than GHG had before. “It seems like it’s a big reunion every year. There’s quite a family connection to it, because that’s how I feel about the Highland games.”

The “games” part of the name refers to athletic competitions, like the championship, which date back almost 1,000 years, and there are now versions for children. They range from caber throwing, in which the person has to flip a pole lengthwise, to stone or shot throwing for distance and height. But just like when gatherings were held for the strength, speed and agility tests in Scotland through time, the event is also a larger celebration of Celtic heritage.

The clans, which are usually lineage families, set up tents around St. Andrew’s Field near the entrance to the state park, with information about their history and how to preserve the heritage. Tents for Scottish companies seeking to advance history and culture are also on the program. Vendor tents are also plentiful, and these also include a few food vendors. Dotting the entire area are pavilions where musical offerings take place from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. These performances range from traditional folk to Celtic rock. Pipes and drums groups also compete and Highland dancers show off their footwork. Historical reenactments fight with swords and genealogy workshops provide tips for finding your own legacy.

Richard Holman-Baird of Stonehaven, Scotland, Chief of the Baird Clan and Chief of the 2019 Games, during his June 1 address at this year’s opening ceremonies, specifically thanked “the committee that organized these games”.

“Like all of these things, they don’t happen by nothing. There’s a lot of hard work that went on behind the scenes, so I thank them as well,” he said.

Maureen Frazer Boyd, executive secretary and the organization’s only paid employee, said it takes a lot to do the job Holman-Baird spoke of to bring it all together.

“I’m the paper pusher. Everyone makes the games happen. That’s right. I go to this playground every year, and it chokes me, because I think, ‘Everything that happens. is by people who gave their time. ‘ They care. They want people to understand and appreciate their heritage, ”she said. “They all have the same passion. They all have the same goal: to make everyone who comes to our games happy they decided to do so and come away with a little more knowledge about who they are and a feeling. happy with the experience they had. “

The organization has a 17-member board of directors, over 52 official “members” listed in the program, and several others who serve as event directors.

Boyd spoke about some specific board members and the work they’ve done – too many and too many to mention here – and she said several of them have shown their children through their own example of how important volunteering is, and as they’ve come of age they are now working with games and in some cases grandchildren are helping out as well. It’s an important part of the tradition, she says.

She realized after her father’s death in 1998 how much she had come to consider them all as family during her first five years there.

“My God, this is a good group. Plus, they’re all so funny,” Boyd said. “They’re just funny people. They’re really good, caring, funny. We get together and everyone laughs and cuts off, and it’s just fun. It’s a great bunch. We’re really, really blessed with it. the level of volunteers that we have, we really are.

The “Boyd” part has just been added to her name at the 2018 games, where she and Bill Boyd got married. They met in 2017 as they worked together on preparations for the Boyd Clan Annual General Meeting, which Bill Boyd was responsible for organizing.

She has her own Scottish heritage through the Frazer line, she said.

“The first time I stepped onto the pitch I felt right at home,” she said. “It just filled something. It was the strangest feeling.”

It was as if a part of her had reacted to his presence and woke up, she said.

Bob Harrison is the President of the Glasgow Highland Games, and he was delighted with the participation in the Championship games and the overall event, which he said drew a few thousand more people than the few thousand who usually attend. The fact that at least five had set new records in their respective classes was fantastic, Harrison said.

“I was thrilled with everything,” said the New England native who “grew up in a very Scottish family” in an area of ​​Maine with a strong Scottish and Irish presence.

Most of the songs were Scottish and many stories were told. The Highland Games events were held close by in Canada so he was very familiar with them and ‘how Scottish things worked, Scottish music and Scottish history’. He travels to Scotland about every five years for the MacKenzie Clan reunion.

He was part of the original group that was reunited after Glasgow Mayor Charlie Honeycutt expressed interest in knowing more about the games and the possibility of producing such a rally here, with State Park at the mind as the ideal place.

Harrison said Glasgow High School with its Scottie Band, which includes bagpipers, has always been involved, and he has also named or discussed a few people who have been instrumental in the games’ success – including the late Ralph Payne.

Greg Cutcliff, who, as official drum major, has become arguably the most recognizable public “face” in the games. He and his partner, Hazel Johnson, are also members of the Barrenhart group that performs at the event, and he also typically plays the bagpipe for Highland dance demonstrations.

Harrison said the Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce has always played a vital role, and Ernie Myers, current Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce, has been “Formidable”.

Myers said he was involved in the games from the start. In its early days, the family lumber business likely provided enough lumber to build a few lodges, he said, and later his role in the chamber began.

“The Glasgow Highland Games is our named festival. Other places have their pumpkin festivals, country ham festivals, and watermelon festivals… and they’re all great fun. Well, this is our named festival, and we are choosing to do so in order to celebrate the historic founding by the Scots of this county and this region, this region. It’s a celebration of both our heritage and a remembrance of the fact that we had a group of Scots come here, and blood, sweat and tears started this area. “

And on the topic of sweat, Overfelt said that even though athletes fight to win, there is “friendly competitiveness” and often there is a family atmosphere between them.

Overfelt’s family, first his mother and then others, began cooking lunch for the amateur athletes as theirs weren’t provided like the pros, the former Barren County resident said, where the matches take place. This year there were about three times as many as usual – so much so that he had to spread the games out over three days instead of two to accommodate everyone – so he told them not to. didn’t, but they still made 3,000 cookies and brownies for them, he says.

He turned pro in 2002 and was second at GHG, and he won the national championship for his pro level in 2009, he said, so he wanted to bring that caliber of athlete here.

Legends 40+ athletes never really had a National Championship, so he decided to do one.

“What better place to do that than in Glasgow with the perfect pitch and setup?… I wanted to expose everyone to the greatness of what the Glasgow Highland Games are to me, and that’s that family feeling,” Overfelt said.

When asked who or what he thinks is the heart of GHG, “I think that’s the spirit of the whole group. It really is a collective spirit.

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Jennifer R. Strohm