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Frank Vance, right, with GMHG co-founder Donald McDonald.
File Photo

Originally published: 2013-01-11 15:31:12
Last modified: 2013-01-11 15:31:12

Frank Vance announces Highland Games resignation

Frank Vance, longtime general manager of the iconic Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, recently handed over the reins of one of Avery County’s premier annual events to his trusted team at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games office. Familiar faces will still be at the helm, however, as Tommy Taylor Sr., Thomas Taylor and Levin Sudderth make the necessary adjustments to move into position to fill the void that will be left following Vance’s departure. 

Following his announcement to the GMHG Board of Directors, Vance also took the time to prepare a statement for the community. Printed here in full, Vance reflects on his years working with the GMHG and his hopes for the future of the event. 

‘General Manager’s Perspective’

There comes a time in every person’s life when they wake up one morning and realize that they can no longer do what they have loved to do for many years. That time has arrived for me, and, therefore, I tendered my resignation as general manager of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and as executive vice-president of the GMHG Board of Directors, effective Dec. 15, 2012. As many of you already know, macular degeneration of the retina has played a major role in my loss of ability to perform the functions that a general manager must carry out. Although I am losing my eyesight, I have never lost my vision for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.

I should mention that I have other reasons for stepping down at this time in my life. For the first time in their adult lives, my two children are close enough to Avery County for Jean and me to visit them regularly and help with our five beautiful grandchildren. My son, John, is working with a surgical team on a preliminary residency in East Tennessee and my daughter Kelley has recently set up housekeeping in Mooresville where she hopes to begin her medical practice within the coming year. Those of you with grandchildren will understand fully the desire Jean and I have to spend as much time with them as possible while we are still physically able to do so.

I feel that I am leaving these Games in very capable hands. As you know, Tommy Taylor Sr. has always been the financial wizard who has negotiated our economic ups and downs – with the help of a very capable board of directors – and worked out our contracts and advocated for the Games with the surrounding community. I envision him advising the young men and women that we have trained for the past 28 years to continue this work in the future. 

Levin Sudderth began working with the Games when he was 12 years old, working with his grandfather on the construction crew. As he matured, I asked him to take on more responsibility in the office, including serving as camping director and handling on-site logistics during the Games from the Field Office. He has an excellent knowledge of the civic groups and volunteer organizations that make the Games operate … probably better than my own. He is one of the most capable young men that I have ever had the privilege to work with.

I have worked with Thomas Taylor Jr. since he was 14 years old. Over the past couple of years, he has served as my eyes in the office, where he manages my emails, contracts, job descriptions and any other task set before him. He is also our resident computer guru who can take my vague ideas and bring them to life with focus and clarity.

Of course, I must take this opportunity to thank all of the remarkable people in the office who have made my job so much easier. These include Sheila Taylor, Frances Fletcher, Shelby Barrier, Elizabeth Joyner, Callie Erwin, Pat Singleton, Lisa Wright, Kathey Aldridge, Adam Taylor and, of course, my wife Jean, who worked on advance orders here in the office and also ensured that I got home safely every evening. Of course, outside of the office staff, there are those too numerous to mention who have given their all to support the mission of the Games, such as Bobby Dobson, John T. Soule, Steve Watson, Larry Sudderth, Dennis Sudderth, Conley Shell and Andy Rominger. 

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not give due honor to the numerous volunteer organizations and civic groups that have given so freely of their time and talents, while at the same time developing closer community relationships that otherwise would not have been made. Seeing local people set a world-class standard and take pride and ownership in these Games has been one of the most rewarding parts of leading this magnificent event.

It is difficult to give up something that you love so much, and have grown up with. In a way, the GMHG has been a way of life in and of itself for Jean and me. However, as I see it, there are too many who do not recognize when it is time to turn things over to those who have been trained to lead and to let them “earn their wings.” Of course, I will always be available to advise the staff and the Board of directors.

One positive outcome of this change for me will be that, for the first time in my life, I can attend the Games as a spectator and spend time doing what I truly enjoy, which is meeting you and socializing with you rather than putting out fires and answering correspondence. As you visit the Games in 2013, please be sure to stop by and say hello. I will most likely be somewhere near my good buddy and friend of 28 years, Ross Morrison Jr. Of course, I do regret that I will not be able to have our third “partner in crime” Royce McNeill to enjoy this time as well. He is, and always will be, sorely missed.

With that in mind, so many of my departed friends come to mind as I look back on my years with the Games. These include Charles Gordon, Bobby Groves, Clyde Sudderth, Guy Soule, Scotty Maxwell, the Rev. Dougal MacLean, the Rev. Richard Gammon, Wally Jones, John Dall, Hugh Morton, Jim Beasley, John Beegle, Hugh MacKay, N.J. MacDonald and so many others. Reflecting on these great men with which I have had the honor to serve makes me proud that I came in on the tail end of the greatest generation that America has ever produced – with the possible exception of our Founding Fathers. As we pass the torch to the next generation, I am reminded by these men that they have some tremendous shoes to fill. The best advice that I can think to offer to our young folks today is in the form of 10 two-letter words, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I also would suggest that they heed the advice of an old Native American proverb, which says, “Call on God, but row away from the rocks.”

It is one of life’s greatest privileges to be in a position where you can help preserve the wonderful traditions of our Scottish culture and heritage by bringing people together on one of the most majestic examples of God’s creation, Grandfather Mountain. I am proud that I have been able to facilitate our Godly heritage being passed on to the next generation, and I pray that the works and beliefs of our forefathers will continue into our future for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Thank you for allowing me the honor of being a part of your lives. 

Frank Vance