The Middle Tennessee Highland Games take place in Hendersonville September 10-11

photo: midtenngames.com

This year the Middle Tennessee Highland Games and Celtic Festival will take place at Sanders Ferry Park on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville. All traditional activities will again be part of the celebration of all things Scottish and Celtic on 10 and 11 September 2022.

“[W]We are excited about our new location on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee,” the Festival website reads. “We have worked with Sumner County and are now very grateful and proud that Sumner County Tourism has decided to provide us with excellent sponsorship. We believe that our out-of-town visitors will enjoy their stay in Sumner County and that we have entered into a long and successful partnership.

For six years, families have come together for this event which celebrates Scottish music, dancing, sporting events and clan membership. It is a way to honor and preserve the rich history of the many families who settled in the Middle Tennessee area after leaving their homeland many generations ago. The oldest continuous Highland Games began in 1314 AD and are held at the Ceres Games in Fife, Scotland.

Celtic bands playing both classical and contemporary music will perform on two stages. The main stage will host Fiddle Frenzy, The Sternwheelers, Flatfoot 56, Marc Gunn, Doon the Brae, Tuatha Dea and Nosy Flynn. On the traditional stage, The Secret Commonwealth, Colin Grant-Adams, Clare Cunningham and Barrenhart will perform.

Other entertainment includes traditional Scottish dancing on the dance stage. Glengarry and Sinclair Highland Dancers, Nashville Irish Music School and Nashville Irish Step Dancers will perform on the dance stage. There will also be Haggis Toss and Bonniest Knees competitions on this stage on Sunday.

On both days, there will be a full slate of bagpipe, drum and solo bagpipe competitions in the park’s designated bagpipe and drum area. Solo pipers compete in what is called a “piobaireachd”, pronounced pea-brook, or classically shaped competition. The tune begins with a simple melody called the sol which then develops into more complex movements through each variation culminating in a flourish. Pipers also perform what is called “Ceol Beg” in Gaelic, which consists of marches, strathspeys and reels. Competitors are judged on their ability to stay in tune, play with precision and expression, and keep the timing right.

Drummers compete with sets of marches, strathspeys, reels, bagpipes and jigs. They are normally accompanied by a solo bagpiper. Drummers are judged on their musicality, dynamics, precision and timing. There are three levels of bagpipe competition, each playing a mix of music types. They are judged on musicality and the ability to stay in unison and keep the timing correct.

Sporting events are also an important part of the Festival. The foundation roots of the games are said to date back to 2000 BC as a means of developing the skills needed to be a warrior, but the earliest written reference of them, as noted scotsman.comis that during the reign of King Malcolm III (1057-1093 AD)…he summoned men to race Craig Choinnich near Braemar to find a royal messenger. The games are said to have become a means of choosing the “…most able men for the chieftain’s household…”

Sporting events pit male and female amateur athletes against stone, caber, hammer, sheaf and shot put throws. The Stone Put is similar to a shot put, although it was originally a large rock. Hammer throws are judged on distance and speed. A Caber is a wooden pole that is 19 feet six inches long and weighs approximately 175 pounds. The competition is done in kilts by both sexes. A sheaf is a burlap sack filled with straw and thrown over a contestant’s head with a pitchfork over a pole. The person who throws the sheaf the highest without touching the pole wins. The weights thrown vary between 14 and 56 depending on the gender of the individual competing and the class they are in.

There will also be a clan parade, clan stalls, vendor stalls, traditional food and a children’s zone with character visits, a musical children’s zoo, arts and crafts, games of the highlands for children, archery and Quiddich.

In an article on scottishbanner.com, the event was described as “…a three ring circus of Celtic culture. The anchor of the event is the Heavy Scottish Athletic competition. It is supported by a clan Scottish… vendors selling Celtic produce and delicious food, plus two soft and alcoholic beverage tents.We have a large children’s area and demonstrations of Scottish and Irish dancing, tartan weaving and birds of prey. sure, we will have many pipe and drum teams and a solo bagpipe contest…”

Currently, Weekend passes are on sale. They cost $35 for adults and $12 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free. A guest pass is also available for $150. It includes admission to both days, plus a private viewing area for sporting events, a shaded seating area, catered lunch, unlimited water, and a collectible pin. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 10 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on September 11. The organizers suggest bringing a blanket and/or lawn chair and plenty of water.

The Middle Tennessee Highland Games and Celtic Festival is looking for volunteers. This year, they will be providing t-shirts for their volunteers so festival patrons can find them in the crowd. Opportunities include the Kids Zone, Merchandise Tent, Athletics, Driving a Golf Cart, and Setting Up Fridays.


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Jennifer R. Strohm