Badin Celtic Festival will feature Scottish Highland Games

The last Badin Celtic Festival in 2018 held a promise of more to come.

And more is coming this month for Stanly County visitors and hometown folks looking for some weekend fun and games.

In fact, Better Badin, Inc. is doing something new in town by bringing to life a very old tradition dating to 11th century Scotland.

On May 13, the Badin Celtic Festival will include traditional Scottish Highland Games. These athletic contests have been spread by immigrant Scots and Irish from one end of the globe to the other. Now, North Carolina boasts one of the largest gatherings for Highland Games in the world. Grandfather Mountain Highland Games draws a crowd of 30,000 for the annual July event.

Large festivals have been attracting amateur and professional athletes and large crowds for many years.

According to Tim Irvin, Badin’s entrance in the Highland Games circuit is due in part to the cancellation of the 2023 Bethabara Highland Games in Winston-Salem — one of the smaller regional gatherings. Irvin, Frances Whalen, Chris Comeau and Tom Arsenault make up Better Badin’s festival committee.

Dan Michels volunteered to assist with this inaugural effort. His Highland Games experience began with Bethabara competitions in 2002 and took him as far as Iceland to the World Highland Games. Now, he serves as a certified Southeastern Highland Athletic Group (SHAG) judge and runs smaller games.

“I want to see the games flourish,” Michels said. “I’ll be checking out the field and logistics in Badin and running an open class competition with a roster of 11 amateur athletes.”
Michels has invited class “A,” “B” and “master” athletes to demonstrate their heavy athletic ability at Badin’s new Waterfront Park site.

The Games consist of nine traditional Scottish events — from stone and hammer throwing to the iconic caber toss — and will run all day. Michels expects to lead off with throwing events beginning around 9 a.m. The events not only test for strength, but also for balance, speed and agility.

According to Michels, the games will be reported to North American Scottish Games Athletics (NASGA) which keeps track of all games and rankings of the throwers. The NASGA rankings are used to determine which throwers are eligible for championship games. One or two of the athletes coming to Badin are working to turn professional.

The official start time for the festival is 10 a.m. beginning with a parade up Falls Road led by the Scottish American Military Society Color Guard.

During the day, the sounds of Celtic fusion musicians Trip Rogers and Raglan Road will entertain festival-goers, along with various pipe and drum units.

Children can take part in their own Highland Games on the Village Green after parents register at the Better Badin tent.

And anyone who is curious about the traditional Scottish tartan kilts, sporans, belts, buckles, hose and more are encouraged to ask questions. Representatives of the Scottish Tartans Authority and other heritage groups will be available to share cultural and family history with visitors.

A Military Appreciation Ceremony in the afternoon will honor all veterans present. Volunteers may be needed for carrying various military service flags.

An eclectic mix of food and beverage vendors, including Badin’s neighborhood eateries, will give visitors plenty to choose from.

Two seatings for scotch tasting are the only ticketed events. Tickets may be purchased in advance through Eventbrite, or at the festival at the Better Badin tent.

Two Celtic Festival raffle drawings feature a four-piece patio seating group and a fire pit table. Those tickets may be purchased at the Better Badin tent as well.

Irvin and the committee have spent months planning and preparing for the return of the Badin Celtic Festival.

“The many volunteers have my gratitude,” said Irvin. “We’re hoping for favorable weather and a huge turnout.” 

Badin Celtic Festival Tentative Schedule

Falls Road and Village Green

10 a.m. – SAMS Color Guard Parade on Falls Road

National Anthem and Prayer

11 a.m. – Kids’ Games (Register at Better Badin tent)

Noon – Trip Rogers Celtic Music

1 p.m. – First seating for scotch tasting (ticket required)

2 p.m. – Military Appreciation Ceremony

2:30 p.m. – Second seating for scotch tasting (ticket required)

3:30 p.m. – Trip Rogers and Raglan, Celtic Fusion

5:30 p.m. – Retiring of the Colors

Highland Games, Waterfront Park

9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

In the following order:

Braemar and Open Stone Throwing

Heavy Weight and Light Weight for Distance

Hammer Throwing, Heavy and Light Weight

(Lunch Break)

Caber Toss

Sheaf Toss

Weight Over Bar for Height