Rainy weather doesn’t dampen spirit on final day of Highland Games
By J.J. Kindred | (email@example.com)
Rainy weather Sunday and throughout the weekend dampened the attendance at the 2013 Smoky Mountain Highland Games as they came to a close Sunday afternoon, but it didn’t dampen the spirit of the event.
Clifford Fitzsimmons, in his fourth year as president of the games, said the weather was a big factor in lower attendance than in recent years, but still considered the games a success.
“The rain did turn some people away, but it didn’t stop people from attending altogether,” Fitzsimmons said. “We had people come from all over to set up booths and come perform, and everything has been good in that regard.”
The event was known as the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival and Highland Games, held annually at Mills Park. When event organizers began looking for an alternative location because of traffic congestion and growing competition from other events and tourist attractions in Sevier County, Maryville College officials came and made officials an offer. A deal was made, and the festival was renamed the Smoky Mountain Highland Games.
There was no shortage of entertainment and attractions at this year’s games.
Colin Grant-Adams offers Scottish music
One of the featured performers over the weekend was Scottish guitarist Colin Grant-Adams. He has been playing the guitar for more than 40 years, performing original compositions as well as traditional Scottish tunes at different Scottish festivals all over the country and internationally in such places as Great Britain and Europe.
Grant-Adams was born and raised near Winchester, England, in a predominantly Scottish community. He moved to the United States because of the influence of the Highland Games when they were originally held in Gatlinburg. He and his wife, Dr. Julie Schooler, a retired dentist, currently live in Glasgow, Ky.
“Music has always been in my family,” Grant-Adams said after one of two performances Sunday afternoon. “My father played and my brothers played, and in a Scottish family, music has always been part of the culture.”
“He plays all over the house, but we love it,” Schooler said. “If he’s not playing Scottish-Irish-Celtic music, he’s playing bluegrass. As soon as we get back from a tour, he will have people asking him to come down and play with them. He’ll go jamming and play for a few more hours.”
Grant-Adams said he uses the world around for inspiration to write a song.
“If I see some people in certain places I can write a song about it,” he said. “A lady who got loose riding around on a golf cart with a cowboy hat and a lasso. So I wrote a song about them.”
Playing all over the country, world
Grant-Adams has recorded 11 CDs together.
“We do it full-time, but I’ve cut back a little,” he said. “We just got back from doing a Hawaiian festival, then we’re heading out to the West Coast, then upstate New York and New Hampshire. We’ll even perform on school playgrounds to educate people on the Scottish culture.”
Grant-Adams said he has played at much smaller festivals in North Carolina and some in places such as California, where they had 120,000 people.
“At the smaller ones, people are more friendly,” Grant-Adams said. “As an artist, I do two or three sets a day and don’t get much down time. It’s enjoyable, and I make a lot of friends at these festivals. I will travel all over and see people that I have seen at other festivals.”
Scottish treats satisfy sweet teeth
Festival-goers also had their appetites taken care of, as well as the chance to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Pete Brown, a co-owner of the Infamous Welsh Cookie Co. based in Hornell, N.Y., has been in the family business going on 20 years and is in his seventh year on the road selling his product.
A Welsh cookie is described a combination of a biscuit, a scone, a shortbread and pancake. The cookie is made from heavy dough, which is rolled out flat, cut and cooked on a griddle like a pancake. The resulting cookie is softer, crunchy and not overly sweet like most American cookies. The flavor is a little more subtle, according to Brown.
“I am the cookie man,” he said. “I make cookies for all the shows, and my brother makes cookies for all the shows he covers, and my father makes cookies for the shows he covers, so it’s a true family business.
“Working by myself, on a good day I could make 200 dozen,” Brown added.
Black Currant cookies are the traditional normal flavor of Welsh cookies, Brown said.
“It is the recipe that my great-great-great grandmother Rachel brought over,” he said. “It was hers from Wales. Black currants are very popular in Wales and are very prevalent. We’ve added flavors to appease the people who don’t have Welsh ancestry.”
Brown operates out of a home bakery added to his house, so he can have an industrial bakery.
“Guys who help me out cover for shows for me,” Brown said. “Our main venues are Celtic festivals like this one in Maryville. We do Irish festivals, Renaissance festivals, Beerfest and such. Business has been pretty good, and this is my second year in Tennessee. People know us now. The rain didn’t help, but that’s what is expected sometimes.”
Jacquie Habenicht, a clothing designer for Scottish Leather & Lassie Wear in Charlotte, N.C., has been selling and making traditional Scottish clothes for more than five years. She was one of many vendors who had a booth set up all weekend.
Scottish Leather & Lassie Wear specializes in ladies dresses and accessories, and Scottish leather gear.
“I started out making things for friends and family, then I turned it into a business,” Habernicht said.
Irish Overdress is one of the more popular styles of ladies dresses, along with Highland Chemise and Bodice. She said business was slow over the weekend because of the rain, but was successful.
It is her third year participating in the festival since it moved from Gatlinburg. “This year I’m doing 12 festivals, and that’s all I can handle right now,” Habernicht said. “We’re making things, and we’re not replenishing.”
Organizers are always aiming for a bigger and better event in the years to come. “We start planning for next year’s games in July,” Fitzsimmons said.