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In 1956, Mrs. Agnes MacRae Morton of Linville, North Carolina and Mr. Donald F. MacDonald of Charlotte, North Carolina co-founded the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Donald MacDonald's vision for the games was based on the Royal Braemar Gathering, which he'd attended a few years before in Scotland in 1954. The Braemar Games had been held there for several hundred years and the Grandfather Mountain Games was often later called "America's Braemar". It was special in many ways, by boasting an oval track in which traditional foot races could be held, along with the heavy events in the inner field. The site became a favorite among games attendees very fast for its striking resemblance to the Highlands of Scotland.

The stated mission for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is: "To carry on and promote the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans, to foster and restore interest in traditional dancing, piping, drumming, athletic achievement, music and Gaelic culture, and to establish scholarship funds to assist students from Avery County High School to study at American colleges and universities."
The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is one of the largest in the country, continuously drawing a crowd of over 30,000 over the four days that it runs. It has only recently been surpassed by the highland games in Pleasanton, California. In 2006, the Games celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The Games take place over four days at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain. Some people stay in hotels while visiting, while others set up camp sites around MacRae Meadows.