As the seventh year of the Mint Hill Highland Games begins Friday May 6 and Saturday May 7 at The Park on Fairview, organizers feel they have nearly perfected the art of hosting a Scottish festival. Other than a little rain in recent years, for the most part the event has run smoothly.
This year, they have a different concern. On the first three weekends of May, there are several Scottish festivals being held within driving distance of Mint Hill.
“It’s a delicate balance trying to find a date,” said Donna Rogers, the event’s founder.
The Mint Hill Highland Games has seen a steady rise in attendance since it was first held in 2005. Rogers said they expect 4,000-5,000 to attend this year. Because the festival charges by the car, it’s difficult to gauge exact attendance counts.
Rogers said people will come from all over the state and beyond to attend the festival. Perhaps the biggest draw in recent years has been the music. For the last three years, the headlining band has been Rathkeltair, a world famous Celtic-rock band. This year, Glengarry Bhoys will be performing four times over the weekend. The band, which hails from Canada, is one of the most popular Celtic bands on the Scottish games circuit, and is making a rare appearance in the south. Founded in 1988, the band is described as “a Celtic fusion band blending traditional Scottish and Irish music with modern Celtic and contemporary sounds.”
Also playing this year’s festival is Stirling Bridge, a Celtic band from the Charlotte area. Rogers’ husband, Trip is the group’s lead singer.
New this year is a rugby exhibition which will feature teams from Concord and North Mecklenburg. Tents will also be set up for the Armed Forces Museum and Archive of the Carolinas and the North Carolina Korean War Veterans Association.
Rogers said they have a lot of new vendors for this year, half of them coming from five different states. And back by popular demand this year is a Barney Fife impersonator.
Also returning this year is Squirrel’s Nest Farm Border Collies for demonstrations in rounding up sheep.
Because of slow economic times, Rogers said they had to scale back some of the outreach to the schools that they have done in recent years. However, they did host a contest at Queen’s Grant where students were asked to design the official pin of the games.
Mint Hill’s Highland Games remain on the best “entry level” events in the state. Rogers said people like the youthful atmosphere and the laid back quality. It takes a lot of work to make the games “laid back.” None of the organizers take a paycheck for their efforts.
“You have to really enjoy it because it’s hours and hours of work,” Rogers said. “But you want to present the heritage to the public and that’s the goal.”
Gates open at 6 pm Friday for performances by Stirling Bridge and Glengarry Bhoys. There will also be the Torchlight Ceremony and the Calling of the Clans. On Saturday, music starts at 10 am and goes until the gates close at 5 pm. Opening ceremonies begin at 12 noon. Athletic games begin at 9 am, while the Children’s Athletic events begins at 1:30 pm. Don’t forget about the two border collie demonstrations and the Bonnie Knees competition. There will also be great food as well as other vendors. Admission is $5 per car, one dollar of which goes to the Robinson Presbyterian Church.