Grandfather Mountain Highland Games canceled due to virus

AVERY COUNTY, N.C. — Every year, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games brings in millions of dollars for Avery County but this year, it’s canceled.

Last year, we could see thousands of visitors filling up the field for the game on the mountainside -- that won’t happen this year because of COVID-19. Organizers are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 at an event that attracts tens of thousands of people each July.

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Each year, nearly 40,000 people come to Avery County for its biggest festival the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

Outside of the fall leaf season, it’s one of the busiest times of the year at Christa’s General store just off the Blue Ridge Parkway where visitors stop on their way to the games.

Just down the road at the Pineola Inn they are normally booked solid weeks in advance for the games, but the phone won’t be ringing this year.

“We do a four night minimum which is Thursday through Sunday and we’re always packed every year, so it’s a big loss,” manager Wayne Clark said.

At the Crossnore Fire Department, the chief said volunteers won’t be providing the shuttle service to the mountainside this year meaning less money to buy equipment at the firehouse.

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Christy McKinney works as a weaver in the county, but had her hours cut when the games were canceled.

“I myself am a single mom. This is my job. This is my livelihood. This is what I do. All of these shows getting canceled means there’s not enough money coming in,”she said.

The county manager told Channel 9 even high school students are impacted. The games are so big it would normally provide weeks of employment for teens during the summer months, but not this year.