For 13 years, the Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games has drawn tourists from all over to Meeks Park in Union County. Lynn Varian, the publicity director, spoke about the festival’s history and success. The event began in 2003 at the suggestion of Jim McAfee, a local realtor. McAfee was a Chamber of Commerce Board member and given the task of finding a way to bring tourism into Blairsville and Union County. Experienced with other Scottish Festivals, McAfee proposed that Blairsville hold a festival of its own. Since then, the festival has been a success and listed as a Southeastern Top Twenty Event for 10 years in a row.
It is said that Early Scots were attracted to the area because of the similarities in the landscape to their homeland. Rolling hills, soaring mountains, four temperate seasons, and wide open spaces brought them to North Georgia. The festival recreates the experience of Scottish immigrants with sheep herding collies and other animals. You can also test your strength at wielding traditional weaponry by heaving stones, hammers, and cabers in friendly amateur and record setting SSAAA Highland Games competitions.
Last year 10,000 people attended the Georgia festival. During the three day event in the scenic North Georgia Mountains, visitors can watch live reenactments and listen to music featuring bagpipes and drums. Celtic singers, dancers, pipers, athletes, clans, and societies come out to provide guests with a memorable experience. Vendors with a scottish theme can participate in the festival and have the opportunity to gain exposure and sell products. There are plenty of activities for kids as well as workshops and demos for all ages.
“A large committee of local volunteers, along with assistance from the Chamber of Commerce and, of course, cooperation from the city and county make this one of the most amazing festivals in Georgia and the surrounding five state area,” said Varian. On average the festival costs $55,000 to run, and any profits made go to local charities.
The festival brings tourists to the North Georgia Mountains from the US, Canada and Europe. “We fill the hotels, cabins, rentals and restaurants, in the 5 counties surrounding us and our local economy experiences quite a boom,” said Varian. “From gas to groceries, everything benefits.”