The Myrtle Beach Highland Games head back to The Market Common for second year in a row

Competitors dig deep in the sheaf toss as one of the many games at the Myrtle Beach Highland Games and Heritage Festival in Grand Park at The Market Common on Saturday, March 19, 2016.

Kilts, pipe and drum bands, feats of strength, and border collies all fit into this setting honoring Scottish, Irish and British heritage.

The Myrtle Beach Highland Games and Festival will roll out for a second year, at Myrtle Beach’s Grand Park, on Crabtree Lane, off Farrow Parkway, across from The Market Common. An Irish “Ceilidh” welcome party, full of music and free, is 6-10 p.m. Friday, March 24, and the games and festival, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, March 25. Saturday includes a grand opening ceremony, at 10 a.m., with a “Tartan Parade,” and four border collie field demonstrations, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 1 and 3:30 p.m.

General admission for Saturday in advance (www.myrtlebeachhighlandgames.com) and at gate, respectively – $12/$15 for ages 13-64, $8/$10 military (with ID) and anyone 65 or older; $5 either way for ages 6-12; and free ages 5 and younger.

Todd Cartner, executive director for the games and fest, said sponsorship has grown “by about 30 percent” for this second annual extraordinaire, a fundraiser for the Myrtle Beach Regional Pipe Band and Horry County Firefighter Relief Fund. Anticipated attendance for the inaugural daylong affair last March was 2,500-3,000, he said, citing “6,800 through the gates” in the end.

Athletic prowess proven through strength

Surveys showed people traveled from 23 different states “up and down the East Coast,” as well as Canada and Scotland, Cartner said, noting the sports tourist element as well, with athletes competing in games and accumulating points, with hopes to reach world finals in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Cartner said a number of competitors in Myrtle Beach last year advanced to regional levels based on their scores and that one Myrtle Beach division winner, Amanda Ford, was invited to the 2017 Arnold (Schwarzenegger) Sports Festival, March 2-5 in Columbus, Ohio (www.arnoldsportsfestival.com).

Games such as stone puts – with weights of 16 to 22 and 22 to 28 pounds each – the hammer throw, and 56-pound weight for distance illustrate the strength of the participants, Cartner said, especially impressed by their fitness, and arm and leg muscles.

“When you have somebody lifting a 180-pound telephone pole,” he said – referring to the caber toss, similar to a telephone pole “on the side of a road” – “it’s amazing and impressive.”

Besides the groups who will entertain for the Ceilidh on Friday, and all day Saturday, Cartner touted the “authentic Scottish beers” and other beverages geared to ages 21 and older. Four “Whiskey Tastings” – 5 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, with room for 40 people each by advance registration for $35 extra fee – come in a “Tour of the Highlands” theme, with food pairings and insight on the process and origins of five whiskeys, reflecting “several different ways” for distillation, Cartner said.

Live music for Friday comprises Ripley’s Ruckus Drumline at 6 p.m., SYR 6:30 p.m., pipe bands 8 p.m., and Tuatha Dea 8:30 p.m.; then on Saturday: Ripley’s Ruckus Drumline at 10:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., SYR 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Tuatha Dea noon and 3 p.m., and pipe bands 1 and 2:30 p.m..

More than a get-together for beer, then going home

Counting 20 such Highland games and fests he has attended nationwide, Cartner said everybody turning out “gets along well,” a universal aspect he appreciates, especially with the addition of a few hundred people he stays in touch with social media.

Such a get-together “is really not just something where you drink beer and have a good time, and you’re done,” Cartner said.

Other additions for the 2017 Myrtle Beach celebration range from more inflatable bounce houses for youngsters – amid smaller scale versions of the athletic games for them to try – the Grand Strand British Car Club bringing their sets of wheels for display, and outreach to welcome more animal shelters across three counties to help find homes for dogs.

Last year, two such rescue groups took part, and 11 dogs found families, Cartner said, thrilled to already have had five shelters booked as of March 2 for this weekend.

Cartner also pointed out where golf began, in Scotland, and with that sport driving a segment of the Grand Strand economy, Myrtle Beach Family Golf will set up a nine-hole miniature golf course for children to enjoy, complete with scorecards.

British cars share some spotlight

The schedule worked out for the Grand Strand British Car Club (843-651-7644, grandstrandbritishcarclub.com, or email jrodsmith@yahoo.com) – which already has booked its fifth annual “Myrtle Beach Britfest” for Oct. 7 at The Market Common – to join the Highland Games and fest this year.

This event, said Rod Smith, club president, “is right up our alley.” He said this invitation, as well for the Murrells Inlet Christmas Parade this past December, help spread word about this club’s heart to highlight the style and joy of British-made automobiles.

“It’s a good opportunity to get out cars out there, and exercise our engines,” Smith said, “and meet new people.”

If you go

WHAT: Second annual Myrtle Beach Highland Games and Heritage Festival

BENEFITING: Myrtle Beach Regional Pipe Band and Horry County Firefighter Relief Fund.

WHERE: Myrtle Beach’s Grand Park, on Crabtree Lane, off Farrow Parkway, across from The Market Common.

IN PARTICULAR:

  • Irish Ceilidh welcome party, 6-10 p.m. Friday, March 24 – with music by Ripley’s Ruckus Drumline at 6 p.m., SYR 6:30 p.m., pipe bands 8 p.m., and Tuatha Dea 8:30 p.m.
  • Games and festival, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, with opening ceremony and “Tartan Parade” at 10 a.m.; music by Ripley’s Ruckus Drumline at 10:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., SYR 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Tuatha Dea noon and 3 p.m., and pipe bands 1 and 2:30 p.m.; and border collie demonstrations 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 1 and 3:30 p.m.

HOW MUCH:

  • Friday – Free.
  • Saturday – General admission in advance and at gate, respectively – $12/$15 for ages 13-64, $8/$10 military (with ID) and anyone 65 or older; $5 either way for ages 6-12; and free ages 5 and younger.

ALSO: Whiskey tastings, for ages 21 or older, in “Tour of the Highlands theme, with 40-person capacity for each, 5 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday. $35 advance only.

INFORMATION: www.myrtlebeachhighlandgames.com

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