Coastal Highland Games make Myrtle Beach debut

The Coastal Highland Games came to downtown Myrtle Beach for the first time on Saturday.

The event, which celebrates Celtic and Scottish culture, featured contestants heaving things like sheafs and weights in addition to traditional Scottish dance performances, live music and draft offerings.

“It’s fun,” said Aaron George, a participant in the games that were held as Southeastern Highland Athletics Group (SHAG) contests.

Musician and visitor to the Grand Strand Mark Lapham was one of many who attended this weekend’s event, having taken part in Scotch whiskey tasting at a local bar Friday.

“I like the live music and the dancing and bagpipes,” the Newport, Rhode Island, resident said. “and having a drink and good food.”

Competitors like George participating in the men’s professional division vied for cash prizes. Amateur contestants were able to compete for rank, some being awarded with different items including trinkets.

Members of the throng of fans watching the contestants from the sidelines could be heard cheering on athletes in the boulevard area, many enjoying a cold beer.

Contenders offered the same encouragement and advice to their adversaries.

George, who is from Greenville, noted the weight over bar event was especially difficult.

“For me that’s the hardest,” he said, adding that others may struggle more with the hammer throw or caber toss.

“It’s unique to the thrower,” he said. “Weight over bar in particular, it’s very much about strength. If you have some killer strength and some good technique, then you’re ahead of the game.”

George started competing in Highland games roughly seven years ago after being introduced to the events by a friend.

Now in his second season as a pro, he even co-owns a company offering Highland games gear and apparel that aims to promote the events and its athletes.

“Primarily I compete in the Southeast,” he said. “But I’ve been able to travel out to Portland, (Oregon), Seattle, Virginia, Texas. Kind of all over the country.”

Attendees could purchase Scottish clan art and there were also information booths on clubs and Scottish clans.

After discovering his family has ancestral ties to Clan MacNaughton through a genealogy website, George began competing in a kilt denoting the association.

While he enjoys the competitive nature of the games, his favorite part is interacting with his fellow contestants.

“It’s a really good highland family,” he said. “Some of these guys and gals I don’t see but when we’re at games. You always feel really connected and close to them.

“It’s really camaraderie,” he added. “You enjoy being competitive with them, but you always want them to do well.”

Photo by Viraj Naik/myhorrynews

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