The Hippo


Jun 2, 2020








A show of athleticism. Courtesy of the New Hampshire Gathering of the Scottish Clans.

NH Highland Games and Festival

When: Friday, Sept. 16, to Sunday, Sept. 18, access to grounds opens at 8 a.m. each day
Where: Loon Mountain Resort, 60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln
Cost: $60 for weekend pass; $20 for Friday only; $35 for Saturday only; $25 for Sunday only; free for kids ages 14 and under on any of the three days

Scottish celebrations
NH Highland Games and Festival returns

By Matt Ingersoll

 For one weekend each year, Loon Mountain transforms into the Scottish Highlands as competitors from all over the world battle it out in intense heavyweight, music and dance contests that are quintessentially Scottish during the New Hampshire Highland Games and Festival. 

This flagship event of the New Hampshire Gathering of the Scottish Clans, or NH SCOT for short, is happening Friday, Sept. 16, to Sunday, Sept. 18.
“Our mission is to foster interest in Scottish culture and heritage by providing these interesting experiences, and the Games are certainly one of the ways we do that,” said Terri Wiltse, NH SCOT’s executive director. “Being of Scottish heritage isn’t a requirement for competitors or spectators … some are and some aren’t.”
The event started back in 1975 as a small clam picnic for the Clan Murray that also featured a pipe band and has since evolved into a three-day annual Scottish-themed festival. Wiltse said last year’s Games attracted almost 30,000 people from all across the United States and other countries like Scotland, Iceland and Canada for each of the three days. She added that Loon Mountain serves as a perfect venue for the event due to its terrain resembling that of the Scottish Highlands.
“Traditionally, these games and competitions take place in mountains and high hills,” she said, “so that works, but we are also here because we need housing for people. We have to put up judges that are coming in from Iceland, from Scotland, from the Netherlands … and we need places to put them.”
At the heart of the event are the athletic competitions, which feature hand-selected athletes in four different levels — professional, master, amateur and disabled — with awards to be given out to winners in each level. There will be heavy athletic competitions like the caber toss, the hammer throw and the sheaf toss. Also included will be music and dancing competitions like individual piping and drumming and pipe bands.
“The athletic competitions are pre-selected as far as who gets to participate, but anybody can sign up for dance, or fiddle, or piping and drumming,” Wiltse said.
An honorary chieftain of the games is selected each year, and this year will be Dr. Joseph John Morrow, Scotland’s current Lord Lyon King of Arms.
“One person is selected each year [as the honorary chieftain] to help lead the opening ceremony as well as the closing ceremony,” Wiltse said, “and he’ll be coming all the way from Scotland, so it’s a big deal.”
A variety of both Scottish and non-Scottish food options will be available during each of the three days of the event, including haggis, a pudding made from stuffed sheep stomach that is known as the country’s national dish.
Also featured will be beer and whiskey tastings, with a new whiskey tasting event this year that will pit single Scottish malts against American bourbon and malts. Wiltse said even though the whiskey that is classified as an American malt is aged in Virginia, it is distilled in Scotland before being shipped overseas.
“We’ve got two guys coming from Scotland who are really into the tradition of what they believe true whiskey should be, and they will be coming to help participate in that debate,” she said.
Saturday night will feature a performance by Skerryvore, a Celtic rock group Wiltse said has become known as the “hottest new young band” in Scotland but is relatively unknown in the United States.
“You definitely get the Scottish flavor with them, but they really are a fusion band with lots of different sounds,” she said.
For the kids, there will be a variety of athletic and craft projects, as well as a passport program that has become a popular feature at the festival.
“We have these little passports printed, and kids get to go around the festival grounds and get passport stamps for different places,” Wiltse said. 

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