Just as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games concluded Sunday at Maryville College, capping off two days of bagpipes, athletics and food galore.
Sunday’s schedule included a morning worship service, clan triathlon relay, dog parade, women’s haggis hurl and closing ceremonies. Gates opened at 8 a.m., and events lasted through the afternoon.
Just as the spectacles and happenings were plentiful at the festival, so too were the efforts that went into making it happen. The festival was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill Kilgore, chair of the nine-member board that oversees the festival, praised the work of the event’s organizers.
“We have a really good group of people. They all handle their end,” Kilgore said. “They have certain job assignments and they get them done, so I really just answer questions.”
Kilgore said he was excited to see the event happen, especially after last year’s cancellation.
“I know that the whole county, the whole state, everybody, wants to get back to normal,” Kilgore said. “And to be able to put on an event as COVID becomes more controlled, to be able to start having things in our community means a lot. It helps benefit the small businesses in our community with filling up a bunch of hotel rooms. ...
“What does that mean economically for our community? People buying gas, people staying in hotel rooms. I think it’s a huge step toward normalcy and it’s a great economic impact on our community to have this many people come to town.”
Last year’s cancellation didn’t affect the way Blount Partnership, which helps promote the festival, went about its marketing tasks this year, Communications Director Jeff Muir said. It did affect organizational efforts, though, for an event he said is a “huge economic driver” for both the city and Maryville College.
“When you get these events on a layoff for a year, (you’re) just trying to make sure everybody’s getting back on the same page and making sure that everybody’s role is ... defined like it was before, trying to put that stuff together,” Muir said. “With the governor releasing all the Tennessee Pledge guidelines and everything like that, this is just kind of back to business as usual when running the event.”
The partnership has been the festival’s lead sponsor since it moved from Gatlinburg to Blount County in 2011, Muir said. Its promotional efforts include building both a website and mobile app for the festival.
“It’s just one of the events that we offer our services to,” Muir said. “(The partnership helped) get them off the ground a few years ago, and now they’ve got a leadership role established, and so they run it on their own. Very minimal help from us anymore (in that role). ... We just help them promote it.”
“Bill Kilgore, (board vice president) Keith Austin, those guys really do a good job of running the event and making sure it goes off well,” Muir added.
Kilgore is well aware of what the festival means to Maryville, a city with strong Scottish and Irish roots; his sixth-great grandfather was born in Scotland and immigrated to the area, he said, and many locals have a similar heritage.
“The cool thing about the Scottish Festival, it’s a lot about heritage,” Kilgore said. “Your family, your lineage and where we’re from ... the Scot-Irish have been here as long as anybody.”
“(Passion for heritage) makes us want to put on a good event,” he said, “so that everybody can learn.”