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Annual Celtic Festival, Highland Games set

If you enjoy the traditions and pageantry of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the ninth annual Niagara Celtic Heritage Festival and Highland Games is sure to have something of interest for you.

Festivities are slated from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. next Sunday in Krull Park, Olcott. Admission is $9 per day for adults, while children 12 and under are free. There is also free parking provided.

More than a dozen Celtic bands and numerous dancers are scheduled to perform during the two-day festival, which also features a food court, marketplace and a Clan Row. Other activities include demonstrations of chainmalle, falconry and dog agility. Storytelling and a traditional "seisiun," in which festival-goers are invited to bring their own instruments and join in, also are on the schedule.

The Highland Games open at noon Saturday and close at 5 p.m. Sunday and feature the caber pole toss and sheaf toss, as well as other contests.

Festivities culminate with a "ceilidh" concert Saturday, featuring the Celtic Spirit Pipe Band at 5:30 p.m., followed by Penny Whiskey at 7 -- and again at 8:30 -- and the McMahon School of Irish Dance at 8.

"A 'ceilidh' is basically a party -- an evening celebration with music and dancing and bonfires," said Rebecca Schweigert, a member of the Niagara Celtic Heritage Society, which presents the festival.

Festivities will be capped off by an appearance by the Vancouver-based band, The Town Pants, at 4 p.m. and again at 5:30 Sunday to close out the two-day event.

Schweigert estimated that the festival drew close to 8,000 people last year "between the vendors, the performers and the paying customers."

"It seems that all of Western New York was here," recalled Schweigert, who works at the front gate as part of her volunteer duties. "But it's nice because we're drawing more and more people from out of state and Canada, too. We had a woman here from New England last year who saw the festival on our Web site and said she had her husband drove her here for it. People are coming from all over for this festival."

For more information on the event, visit www.niagaraceltic.com.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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