Highland Games are high point of spring
High-fives to all involved in putting together an outstanding Smoky Mountain Highland Games at Maryville College over the weekend.
Not only did this inaugural version of the games at the college draw a record crowd of about 6,000 people, it did so with amazing efficiency. Nice going for an event settling in at a new venue.
There’s plenty of congratulations to go around.
Obviously, the board of directors and the council of the Smoky Mountains Highland Games knew what they were doing. The games had been held in Gatlinburg for the 29 previous years, so they weren’t starting from scratch. But planning for and holding such a big event at a new location is a daunting task, and having the courage to invest in anticipation of doubling attendance — well that was a leap of faith.
Some of that faith came courtesy of their partners. Maryville College, with its refurbishing having put a new sheen on the campus in recent years, was ready to put on a show. They knew what they had in grounds and buildings that could be used for the games. They where eager to burnish their image as a Presbyterian college steeped in Scottish tradition. Fighting Scots indeed.
The city of Maryville brought to the table a reputation for putting on a major, multiday entertainment event that has grown ever since it pulled off the first Foothills Fall Festival 11 years ago. Hey, if you can organize and feed and entertain 70,000 people all over downtown, you have a lot of expertise to offer an event on campus.
The Blount Partnership chipped in, too. Who has better business connections than the Blount County Chamber of Commerce? And who has demonstrated more expertise in marketing local festivals that bring visitors to the county than the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau?
And what about the clans. They came kilted and they left conquerors. For good measure, a national record was broken in the sheaf toss.
The agreement that brought the games to MC is good for two years. Projections are that after such a successful first run, attendance could double again in 2012. We’ll go out on a limb and predict that two-year agreement will be extended and extended and extended.
To paraphrase the closing line of “Casablanca”: “Smoky Mountain Highland Games, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”