BLAIRSVILLE - Getting in touch with Scots ancestry to the sound of pipes and drums is drawing thousands of weekend visitors to Blairsville Saturday and Sunday.
It is the 9th year in Blairsville's Meeks Park for the Scottish Festival and Highland Games. Event Chairman Jim MacFie's clan is the Clan of Honor this year among the 45 participating clans. MacFie said the hills of Northeast Georgia were a natural setting for the Scots.
"A lot of people of Scottish descent came into the mountains," MacFie said. "They came in through Philadelphia or New York, they came down the mountains. This looked like Scotland except we have trees and they don't and that's where they settled. There are an awful lot of people with Scottish descent in this area."
MacFie said he expected up to 6,000 people to visit the festival. Among them, from Kincraig, Scotland was Commander of the Clan MacFie, Iain Morris McFie and his wife Fiona. The Commander said the American MacFies seem to take their ancestry more seriously than they do in Scotland.
"The American MacFies are more committed," he said. "The homeland MacFies don't seem to join into the clan society. Back home our society only has about 50 people in it where as the one in America has about 300 to 350."
All of the clans set up their booths and tents surrounding the expansive green field at the park, in which seven traditional highland game events took place including the Open Stone Throw, the Hammer Toss, and the Caber Toss. At noon the massed pipe and drum bands led the Parade of Tartans.
It is not long before people with Scots heritage names begin wondering about their ancestry, like when their ancestor came to America, and they could get information from clan members.
"I know my ancestor came in through Jamestown in the 1700's, "said Joel Gunn, with the Clan Gunn. "There are probably people who came in earlier than that so we've been here since the beginning days of the country to found America and help build America."
Visitors also learned from Britt Brinson from Cordele that Georgia's earliest defenders, among its earliest militia soldiers, were Scotsmen. Brinson, with three other living historians, staged an encampment of early 1700's Scottish warriors. Brinson said it was the Scots who held against the Spanish in the battle to keep Georgia an English colony.
"Our group portrays the Highland Independent Company of Darien," Brinson said. "They were the Scots who settled on the Georgia coast in 1736 as a buffer against the Spanish in Florida. Thanks to the Scots, we speak English today."