GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN TO CLOSE EARLY JULY 7

With the 61st annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games taking place July 7 to 10, Grandfather Mountain will close early on Thursday, July 7, to accommodate one of the Games’ landmark events — The Bear 5-Mile Uphill Climb. The arduous 5-mile foot race begins at the base of Grandfather Mountain in Linville, featuring some 800 runners taking off full tilt up to the Mile High Swinging Bridge. The runners will pass through MacRae Meadows, where the Highland Games are held, and circle the track on their way to the top. The winners will be brought back down to the East Meadow for the awards ceremony. For guests’ and runners’ safety, the Grandfather Mountain attraction will close at 6 p.m., with ticket sales ending at 5 p.m. The mountain will resume regular hours throughout the duration of the Highland Games, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with ticket sales ending at 6 p.m. For more information on Grandfather Mountain, call (828) 733-2013 or (828)...

GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN HIGHLAND GAMES RETURN JULY 7-10

  Blaring bagpipes, astounding athletes and tons of tartans converge in Western North Carolina July 7-10 for the 61st annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. As the Games continue in their sixth decade, they hearken back to the rich cultural traditions of Scotland in a setting not so different from the mountains and glens 3,600 miles away. The event begins Thursday afternoon, July 7, with border collie sheepherding demonstrations, Celtic entertainment, the running of “The Bear” and the opening ceremonies. “The Bear” pits roughly 700 runners against the steep switchbacks of Grandfather Mountain in a five-mile run that climbs 1,568 feet from the town of Linville to the mountain summit. It’s followed Saturday by another test of extreme endurance as the Grandfather Mountain Marathon winds from Appalachian State University in Boone to the site of the Games in Linville. But the Games truly get under way at the torchlight ceremony on Thursday evening, where representatives of more than 100 clans announce their families’ participation in the gathering. The “raising of the clans” proclaims that they have once again convened to celebrate their heritage. Guests often bring dinner or purchase concessions at the field to enjoy a picnic at the opening ceremonies. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are filled with competitions in traditional heavyweight Scottish athletic events; highland dancing competitions; bagpipe band parades; piping, drumming and harp competitions; sheepherding demonstrations by Scottish border collies; and concerts, featuring a wide variety of Celtic music. The nation’s top Scottish athletes clash Saturday in traditional heavyweight events, such as “Turning the Caber” and “Tossing the Sheaf.” In the caber toss, athletes flip a telephone pole-sized log end over end. The sheaf toss challenges athletes to loft a 16-pound sack of hay over a bar more than 20 feet high. Other ancient tests of strength await...

LINVILLE LAND HARBOR DONATES TO GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN FIELD TRIP SCHOLARSHIP FUND

  Linville Land Harbor demonstrated its support for the education of Avery Country students with a generous donation to the Grandfather Mountain Field Trip Scholarship Fund this June. The donation, made on behalf of the community’s property owners association, will directly benefit Avery county students from Title I schools and give them an opportunity to visit Grandfather Mountain. In addition to entry to the park, the fund can also assist in payment for transportation and meals. The Scholarship Fund was established in 2015 in the memory of the late Nathan Pribble, a teenager who had a strong passion for the outdoors, connecting with nature and Grandfather Mountain. His parents decided to honor their son after his passing by establishing the fund to share Nathan’s passion with students who may not get the opportunity to visit the mountain without aid. Mickey Shortt, director of education and natural resources for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, said that the students come to see a piece of Western North Carolina, as well as gain experience with naturalist programming of their teacher’s choice to enrich their lessons from their curriculum. “The program is a bridge that connects the classroom to the real world,” Shortt said. “They get to experience the top of the mountain and cross the Mile High Swinging Bridge, as well as a special naturalist program that the teacher picks based on their curriculum. This enables them to understand the concepts they are learning about in school at a practical level.” Shortt said there are upwards of 20 possible programs with varying subjects, including weather, geology, animals, ecology and plant life. Shelly Johnston, GMSF director of development, said the numbers from last year attest to the program’s significance and success. In 2015, 13 schools from eight counties received $7,002 in scholarships to...

GRANDFATHER MOUNTAIN EARNS 2016 TRIPADVISOR CERTIFICATE OF EXCELLENCE

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation isn’t about moving mountains. It’s about moving people. And the people have spoken. Grandfather Mountain has received the 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. This marks the fifth consecutive year that the Linville-based attraction has been recognized with the achievement. Now in its sixth year, the award celebrates hospitality businesses that have consistently earned outstanding traveler reviews on the TripAdvisor travel website during the past year. According to TripAdvisor, award recipients represent the upper echelon of businesses listed on the “world’s largest travel site.” “We’re honored and proud to receive this accolade for the fifth year in a row,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the attraction. “I can’t think of a greater measure of our success than receiving such feedback from our guests. The fact that they took the time to put their experience to words means mountains to us here.” To qualify, a business must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four or five, have a minimum number of reviews and must have been listed on the site for at least 12 months. Grandfather Mountain currently holds a 4.5 overall rating based on its 1,302 visitor reviews. Approximately 250,000 people visit Grandfather Mountain each year. The park is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, weather permitting. During the summer, the nonprofit nature preserve offers a wide variety of special events and daily programs, including habitat animal enrichments, naturalist programs and guided hikes. For more information about TripAdvisor, visit www.tripadvisor.com. The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visit...