OLCOTT – Give Scottish country dancing a whirl, watch athletes hurl logs, and wet your whistle at the 16th annual Niagara Celtic Heritage Festival and Highland Games on Sept. 17 and 18 in Krull Park, on the shores of Lake Ontario, in Olcott.
Festivalgoers can immerse themselves in the traditions and pageantry of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with music, dance, food and drink, authentic goods and demonstrations. The festival also boasts a kids’ area, with a mini-Highland Games, crafts and rides.
Beth Banks is the festival director, overseeing some 400 volunteers.
“At some point in every festival, I take a look around and there’s some kind of magic going on here,” she said. “Last year, I was driving to the festival on Saturday morning and I saw a full, double rainbow over the park. I asked, ‘Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?’ But people took pictures of it. You know someone’s watching over you when you see something like that.”
A total of 22 musical acts are expected to entertain on three stages throughout the weekend, along with nine pipe bands and eight dance groups. A special concert, called a ceilidh, featuring the Town Pants and American Rogues, closes out opening-day festivities on Sept. 17. Musical entertainment also includes the Screaming Orphans, who spend half of the year performing in their native Ireland. The City of Thorold, Ont. Pipe Band will join the festival for the first time.
Look for historical re-enactors resplendent in authentic garb from 10 living history groups, as well as representatives from 42 clans and heritage societies. The Marketplace will feature more than 40 merchants peddling unique gifts, foods, and crafts. Gaelic Libations will quench the adults’ thirst.
Among the new vendors will be those selling fairy garden decor and photos of Ireland and Scotland, providing hair-braiding services and a falconry demonstration at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Athletes will compete in the centuries-old Strongman Competition known as the Highland Games. The competitions feature contests of strength in categories such as stone throw, caber pole toss and sheaf toss. The contests are for men and women, youth to super 60-plus masters.
Banks said all first responders with identification and their families will be admitted at half-price Sept. 17 in appreciation for their efforts during the deadly Aug. 10 fire at HTI Recycling in Lockport, which claimed the life of an area teenager. Every company in Niagara County, as well as companies from four other counties, responded to the massive blaze.
Free shuttles will run noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 17 and from noon to 6 p.m. Sept. 18 into Olcott, stopping at parking lots, restaurants and the Lakeview Shoppes.