The festival began in 1973 and is celebrating its 41st anniversary. Past festival president Dick Swanson said the festival and games were started to preserve the Scottish traditions.
“For 41 years, we have continually honored the heritage of Scotland by bringing Atlanta some of the top pipers, drummers, dancers and athletes from around the world,” festival president Norman Livermore said. “I do this to honor my heritage, my mother is from Scotland and the state of Georgia was founded by the Scots.”
Livermore said the more than 300 volunteers take a different approach to make this a family event and have the guests and competitors feel part of a big extended family.
“We do not want this to be just for those with Scottish heritage,” Livermore said. “This is to be a family event opened to everyone.”
The event starts Friday afternoon with the tasting of traditional Scottish Whisky. As the sun rises Saturday morning, pipers and drummers will begin their day long competition. Different competitions between professional and amateur competitors will control the field all day.
“It is like a three-ring circus on Saturday,” Livermore said. “Starting in the morning and continuing all day will be 27 pipe bands. There will also be 100 Highland dancers and traditional athletic events such as the Sheaf Toss and Tossing of the Caber.”
The sheaf toss and tossing of the caber are two of the well-known events. Swanson said many know these two events better when they see them. The sheaf toss is throwing a bale of hay beyond a certain point and the tossing of the caber looks like a man lifting a giant telephone pole. The festival holds the world record from 2008 for the sheaf toss at 36 feet.
After a day of individuals competing, the clans will come together for the games Sunday. Livermore said the day is about celebrating the 98 different clans and having them play the games of their ancestors.
The festival will have booths set up for guests to learn their family and clan heritage.
Music will stream throughout the festival as different Celtic bands play. These bands traveled from all over the U.S. and one came from Ireland — Stonewall. Other bands will include artist Rathkeltair, Keltic Kudzu and Squinting Patrick.
If you go:
When: Friday, beginning at 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain
Cost: prices range by event