OLCOTT – Rousing tunes, spellbinding stories and demonstrations of everything from sword dancing to barrel-making will greet patrons at the 16th annual Niagara Celtic Heritage Festival and Highland Games Saturday and next Sunday in Krull Park, Olcott.
As the sponsoring Niagara Celtic Heritage Society boasts, this festival will celebrate all things Irish, Scottish, Welsh and more.
The festival runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, closing with a Saturday night concert, called a “ceilidh,” featuring the Town Pants and American Rogues, and it picks up again from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. next Sunday.
“The Town Pants are from Vancouver and they haven’t been here in a few years and we’ve never had the American Rogues before, so we have quite a good ceilidh lined up this year,” said Beth Banks, festival director.
The festival is a chance for patrons to immerse themselves “in the traditions and pageantry of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.” Twenty-two musical acts are expected to entertain on three stages throughout the weekend, along with nine pipe bands and eight dance groups.
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, while Gaelic Libations will wet everyone’s whistle.
Banks said at least eight new vendors will join the festival this year, selling everything from fairy garden decor to photos of Ireland and Scotland, with hair-braiding thrown in for good measure.
In addition, 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, for men and women, youth to super 60-plus masters.
And, aimed at entertaining the entire family, organizers have created a kids’ area, with a mini-Highland Games, crafts and rides.
But many come for the music and 22 acts will perform on three stages, offering nearly continuous musical entertainment. Music will be performed from opening to closing, stopping only for the parades. Musical acts will include the City of Thorold, Ont., Pipe Band for the first time, and the crowd-pleasing Screaming Orphans, who spend half of the year performing in their native Ireland.
In addition, clan members travel from far and wide.
“It’s amazing how far some will tell us they come for this,” said Banks. “Clans hold AGMs, or annual general meetings of the clan, and they are held all over the world.”
Admission is $25 for the weekend; $20 for Saturday; and $12 for Sunday, while children 12 and under are free. There also is plenty of free parking. Patrons are advised to bring a lawn chair.
Banks said all first responders with identification and their families will be admitted at half-price on Saturday, to thank them 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.
Banks also said that, “It’s important to note that we are an educational, not-for-profit organization and that all that we make goes right back into the festival. We pay these people to perform. It’s the only way to help these groups survive.
Banks also said the festival takes an astounding 400 volunteers to stage.
“We have some amazing people involved,” she said.
A free shuttle will run from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday into the hamlet of Olcott and make stops at parking lots, restaurants and the Lakeview Shoppes.
Visit: www.NiagaraCeltic.com for a full schedule for both days of the festival.