With much regret, The Scottish Society of Charleston, Inc. Board of Directors has voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 Charleston Highland Games and Scottish Gathering. This decision was not without lengthy debate. The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the way people will gather and socialize for the near future.
As everyone knows, holding our event is very costly. The limitations the government has placed on any large gathering change daily, however, we thought best to proceed with making a decision sooner rather than later. In the current state, limitations have been placed on the number of patrons that can attend, as well as the fact that there is a high probability of not being able to obtain the necessary alcohol permits. This alone would lead to a huge financial risk. Financial support from ATAX funds and Visitor Bureau funds, which have assisted us greatly in the past, are expected to be few, if any, due to the lack of lodging and rentals during this time. If the games were not canceled, we would have to begin spending funds now that we may not be able to recoup. Simply put – our output would increase and our return would decrease. The Board has a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the financial position of the Society, and this weighed heavily on the decision to cancel.
Besides the financial aspects involved, the venue for our event is under new management. They are restructuring their operations, and they, too, are dealing with constantly changing guidelines imposed by the government. Boone Hall Plantation, which we have been blessed to partner with for many years, is not comfortable moving ahead with the contract until more is known regarding COVID-19 restrictions.
There is also the question of attendance. Many of our Clan attendees are in the higher-risk age group and have expressed concern regarding social distancing and safety during this pandemic. Our 2020 Honored Clan guest, Somerled MacDonald, will not be attending due to travel and quarantine requirements of the UK. As with other Scottish Games, there is a great concern for the safety of our members, athletes, musicians, vendors, and guests. Hotels, private rentals, and other lodgings are closed or limited as to occupancy. Businesses are shut down and many of our donations will be affected.
I could continue as the discussion did during the board meeting. The point is – everything is against us for hosting this year’s Games and still being in a financial position to finance the 50th Games in 2021. The decision was made to put our efforts, and finances, into having a grander Games and gathering for our 50th year.
John W. McKnight
President, Scottish Society of Charleston