LAURINBURG — Before the 10th annual Highland Games in Scotland County could truly get cranked up, a surprise that had been kept for quite some time was revealed during the opening ceremonies on Saturday.
Bill Caudill, the director of the Scottish Heritage Center and longtime instructor of music at St. Andrews University, was presented with both the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award and Honour of the Long Leaf Pine. He is also the chairman and founder of the Scotland County Highland Games.
“I had no idea, I am just blown away,” Caudill said. “I have worked here for 34 years and I feel blessed to be a part of the community.”
Not only were the awards kept secret by the organizers of the Highland Games and those who work with Caudill, but even his wife was hush-hush about them.
Co-chair of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners Carol McCall and State Rep. Garland Pierce presented the Order of the Long Leaf Award to Caudill in front of hundreds of festival attendees. The award is normally presented by the governor, but Gov. Roy Cooper had a previous engagement in Asheville.
“Caudill has for years given so much to Scotland County, raising the money with volunteers (and) bringing the festival back and putting it in Scotland County,” said McCall.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is one of the most prestigious awards North Carolina can bestow to a citizen of the state. It is given to individuals who serve and highly contribute to their community and organizations for over 30 years.
The award in the past was given to visiting dignitaries but, over time, became an honor to notable locals in the state.
Caudill accepted his award and commenced the games by reading the official toast of North Carolina:
“Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine, the summer land where the sun doth shine, where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great; here’s to ‘Down Home,’ the Old North State!”
Food, fun and family
Scottish pride reigned true as the Massed Pipe Bands held flags high and piped across the field in Scottish regalia at the opening ceremony on Saturday. The festival was enjoyed by hundreds with a wide open field for the main ceremonies and competitions — young Scots raced through obstacles courses in the children’s games while parents enjoyed the scene.
Objects like swords, kilts, and jewelry were sold as well as wooden bows and shields for children.
Throughout the festival were separate stages and tents holding competitions like the Highland Dance, Solo piping and drumming, and the harp competition. Also, animals stole many hearts of the crowd in the sheep dog demonstration, where sheep followed the commands of their master with the help of a few dogs and a puppy.
Clan tents surrounded the main field and one could find out facts about their heritage and lineage.
“Every single clan here we all have a common bond and type which is our Scottish heritage,” said Mel Vierheller, Southeast Region NC commissioner of Clan Donald. “It is important to me because it ties me back into my past.”
He says Clan Donald is the largest clan in the world, dating back 900 years. He also reports that the Tartans worn tell where different clans are from.
“The tartans tie our common bond to the land, it can tell where your descendants come from and what part of Scotland,” said Vierheller. “The Scottish came to be when the Irish and interbred with the Picts, an indigenous people, who spoke Celtic.”
Vierheller shared that he was proud to come to the festival where he could share knowledge and meet others.
Another festival- goer was glad to be a part of excitement — as well as raise money to make a difference for local teens in the county. Brooke Bathie is a UNC-Wilmington sophomore now, but she attended Scotland High and was chosen to go to Scotland as part of the Laurinburg-Oban Exchange program two years ago.
”We did many activities like cliff jumping into the freezing water,” she said. “I keep in contact with my friends there and my family and I have vacationed there many times.” said Bathie.
Food trucks and tents sold genuine Scottish foods like blood pudding and haggis, as well as desserts and American foods.
“The program is a great way to be culturalized and go out and explore and meet new people,” Bathie added. “Coming here (the festival) is a great way to get the word out about it.”
She and other volunteers sold hot dogs and hamburgers to raise money for students to travel and continue the 26-year program.
“This is a good family oriented festival, its in the perfect location,” said Jesus Ramirez, attendee and general manager of the Scottish Cottage food truck. “(My boys) help me work the food truck and we get to travel to different states at the same time, they learn so much.”
The festival finished with a closing ceremony and awards presentation to contest winners.
Jael Pembrick can be reached at 910-506-3169 or [email protected]