Held in a region which was densely populated by Highland Scots beginning in the 18th century, the Scotland County Highland Games, in Laurinburg, North Carolina, USA, returned in great fashion after a two year hiatus.
A record crowd of almost 7,000 attendees witnessed a full day of events. It is a small Highland Games but this year quite significant as, if all our research proves to be accurate, which I think it is, this was the largest band competition which has been held in the Northern Hemisphere since the COVID lockdown began. If not that, then certainly in North America – I AM certain of that.
Many soloists were playing before live judges in live competitions for the first time as well. Our little gathering was proud to host this event!
The Scotland County Games band competition was also the host of the Grade IV and V Southern Branch EUSPBA Championship. The Grade III Branch Championship will be held in Charleston, South Carolina, on November 6 with a large cash prize being made possible by the Clan Donald Lands Trust.
Seventeen attending pipe bands played before the judges last Saturday on a warm and sunny early fall day. A total of 24 pipe bands had registered for the event, as entries opened on June 1.
Uncertainties about the continued threat of the COVID Delta variant, as well as the struggles which many are still facing in returning to regular practices with full attendance following the lockdown, prevented some from following through with their entry commitment. Despite this, a good competition in Grades III, IV, and V was well received and the standard was by all accounts very good.
The Games also featured a large solo competition as well, with over 80 competitors from as far away as Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Florida entered in the Amateur-Only Piping and Drumming events. For many this was their first ‘live’ event playing before judges since 2019, as only a few live competitions have been held this season in the EUSPBA.
The Scotland County Highland Games took a very cautious approach about holding their public event. Though attendance was open to all, temperature checks were performed at the gates for all attendees and social distancing was encouraged though this was an outdoor event.
All volunteers assisting with the event were required to be fully vaccinated, and the general public and participants who did not have on-site parking were required to wear masks while riding the shuttle buses provided for the short 1/2 mile ride from the general public parking area to the Games entrance. Coordination and approval from local and state health and public service authorities was obtained so that the event was able to move forward.
We had hoped to be through the COVID threat long ago, however the resurgence with the Delta Variant just a few weeks prior to our event meant a lot of additional contingency and mitigation planning for us. We felt that the audience and the competitors were very anxious to get out, and we tried our best to offer the safest and most enjoyable event possible – even with that potential threat.
The result of these efforts was a record-breaking attendance by the public, and band entries from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, as well as both North and South Carolina.
We are delighted with the support the bands and soloists have given us in this ‘comeback’ year, and by all accounts everyone was very happy with our efforts. It is great to see us getting back into the mindset of playing and competing again.
Some bands are having their struggles in getting back in action, but hopefully the draw of live events and a downturn in the remaining COVID threat will allow everyone to get back at it and back up to speed.
Judges for the solo and band competitions included: PIPING: James Stack, Peter Kent, Lorne Cousin, Ed Krintz, Dan Lyden, June Hanley, Barry Conway, John Recknagel, and Jerry Finegan. DRUMMING: Eric MacNeill and Jon Quigg. Drum Major for the Day was Steve McClure.
Results of the band competitions were:
Grade III (MSR)
1 Wake and District Pipe Band, Raleigh, North Carolina
2 Atlanta Pipe Band, Georgia
Grade IV (3-5 Minute Medley)
1 Chattanooga Pipes and Drums, Tennessee
2 Atlanta Pipe Band Grade IV, Georgia
3 Rosie O’Grady’s Pipe Band, Orlando, Florida
Grade V (Quick March Medley)
1 Harvey E. Ritch Memorial Pipe Band, Marion, North Carolina
2 Cross Creek Pipes and Drums, Fayetteville, North Carolina
3 Jamestown Pipes and Drums, North Carolina
Grade 1 Piob, judge Ed Krintz
1 Patrick Johnson
2 Thomas John Cangeloni
3 William Shropshire
4 Michael Trenor
Grade 1 March, judge John Recknagel
1 W Shropshire
2 Steven MacDonald
3 TJ Cangeloni
4 M Trenor
Grade 1 S&R, judge Barry Conway
1 M Trenor
2 TJ Cangeloni
3 P Johnston
4 W Shropshire
Grade 1 H&J, judge Lorne Cousin
1 S MacDonald
2 W Shropshire
3 TJ Cangeloni
4 M Trenor
Full solo results here.