Organizers have announced that the 2011 version of the event will be held on April 23 at Laurel Hill in Ararat, the birthplace of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. rain or shine.
“It’s grown every year,” said Ronnie Haynes, vice president of a birthplace-preservation group that sponsors both the upcoming festival and a Civil war re-enactment on the Laurel Hill grounds. The celebration of Scottish and Celtic culture, focusing on that of Scotland’s Highlands, is now in its fourth year.
The April event will feature some of the same attractions as previous years, led by athletic competitions and music.
“The athletic events are very popular, especially the caber toss,” Haynes said of one maneuver in which competitors see who can pick up a 21-foot-long, 125-pound log by one end and throw it the farthest.
Participants’ skills will be tested by a number of other “heavy athletics” sporting activities invented centuries ago. These include the throwing of stones, hammers and weights of various sizes and the sheaf toss, in which 20-pound sacks are hurled over a bar using a pitchfork.
The competition typically involves about 15 kilt-wearing Highland Games competitors who travel a regular circuit of such gatherings to entertain the crowds.
“And people like the music, too,” Haynes said of bagpipes groups and other performers scheduled to attend. This year’s talent lineup includes The CeltHix, The Triad Highlanders and Renee Henry.
Although the gates will open at 9 a.m. on April 23, official opening ceremonies at noon will include anthems and then the annual Parade of Tartans on the athletic field led by The Triad Highlanders. Various clans represented at the festival will take turns displaying their colors.
Clans also will be set up at different stations offering information about their families, and Haynes said local historical and genealogy groups will be part of the event as well. Many people in this region have at least some Scottish ancestry, which adds to the Laurel Hill festival’s allure, he said.
A falconer also will be part of the event, along with quilting and weaving displays and an array of food.
Gate admission will cost $6 for adults, but there is no charge for children 12 and under. From Mount Airy, Laurel Hill can be reached via Riverside Drive (N.C. 104). It is just across the North Carolina-Virginia line.
Haynes said the upcoming Laurel Hill Scottish Highland Games and Festival represents a way for local people, regardless of ancestry, to enjoy old-country traditions that are being perpetuated by similar events around the world.
The J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust is working hard to make the festival larger each year, recognizing its importance to area tourism. “We have a new Web site now for the games and that’s helped, too,” Haynes said.
“We’re encouraging people to come out,” he added, citing the April event as a great way to shake off the winter doldrums.
“It’s a good fun day.”
Contact Tom Joyce at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1924.