Celtic Festival Returns

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96 Highlanders Celtic Festival Parade of the Clans - 2010.

Twenty clans of the Seven Celtic Nations of old will gather themselves together again—for the seventh time in seven years—at the shamrock-green, Lakeside Park in Mayville, New York on Friday and Saturday, August 25 and 26.

It always calls for great festivities when the Most Ancient and Honorable Clans, some returning from as far away as California, come together. Doug Clark, a founding organizer of the annual Celtic Festivals, extends a cordial Celtic invitation to all near and far to gather with the clans for the grand Opening Kick Off Party beside the lake on Friday Evening, Aug. 24, 2012 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. “It’s the truest way to get a taste of our wonderful Celtic heritage,” Clark promises.

96 Highlanders Celtic Festival Parade of the Clans – 2010.

The 7th Annual Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival & Gathering of the Clans will follow the Kick off on Saturday, August 25 from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. This year, the Festival has called 20 clans to the gathering, each to be represented in their traditional tartans and kilts.

In ancient times the historic Celtic nations extended from Ireland to Scotland and Wales, to Cornwall, the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and southward to Brittany on the north coast of France, and even to lands now part of Spain and northern Portugal. Celtic roots reach back to a time when each Celtic nation was home to its own unique language and culture, though only a few of the ancient tongues survive in the 21st Century.

But their music still unites the all the clans today; the stirring tones of bagpipes and drums make the traditional music of the heart for Celts from everywhere. Doug Cark is also the spokes person, a performer and the business manager for The 96th Highlanders Pipes and Drums of Jamestown. The 96th, founded in 2001, performs under the direction of Pipe Major Pamela Silver, Doug Clark’s wife. The band is renowned for their stirring traditional and popular bagpipe, drum and marching performances in New York, Pennsylvania and Canada.

“We have two new bands joining us this year,” Clark explained while describing the upcoming festival. “The Niagara Police and Erepa will bring us to a total of nine bands.” The Niagara Regional Police Pipe Band from St. Catherines in Ontario, Canada, and the Erepa Grotto Pipes and Drums from Fairview PA will complete the complement of bands with two from Canada, two from Ohio, four from New York and one from Pennsylvania.

At 12:30 and 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, the Massed Bands will present a musical spectacle of unforgettable Celtic grandeur with all nine bands performing in a unified concert. Each Pipe Band will also be playing two 20 minute concerts, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

A Buffalo Heavy in the Scottish Hammer Throw. (Submitted Photo)

A traditional Celtic Ceilidh will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. A Ceilidh (pronounced: Kay-Lee) is a party after a gathering of friends, family or clans. The Celtic Festival’s Ceilidh will feature the Lochside Celtic Band in the Beer & Wine Garden. Another special feature will be the circling of the Pipe Bands, comprised of all who are still around at 6 o’clock. They will play a many of the crowd-favorite Scottish Pipe Tunes. Rain or shine, the Ceilidh will take place under the big tent.

“Celtic sporting events will also be a highlight for our guests,” Clark promised. “World class strongmen, The Buffalo Heavies Kilted Throwers Club, will compete in sports most people have never seen but will never forget, once experienced. Most of them are Master level Throwers,” Clark added.

The Caber Toss, for instance, is a competition for the greatest distance a thrower can throw a log which could easily be mistaken for an entire telephone pole. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest caber ever tossed was 25 feet long and weighed 280 pounds, though the average is closer to 18 feet and 150 pounds.

In addition to the caber throw, other events include an Open Stone Throw, forerunner of the modern shot put, a 28 and a 56 pound Weight Throw for distance, Scottish Hammer Throw, A Sheaf Toss (a pitchfork event) of a 16 pound bag of hay over a cross bar, and more, all performed by athletes who wear neither shoulder pads nor shin guards, only kilts.

Throughout the day on Saturday, festival goers can expect to hear the bagpipers and drummers accompany all of the events both near and far across Lakeside Park. In addition to pipers and massively athletic throwers, guests will find a wide assortment of traditional and American food delights and 20 vendors of handcrafted, imported and domestic Celtic goods and apparel.

“Families can meet 20 authentic Celtic clans and search for their ancestry in the clans’ extensive genealogies,” Clark said. Many people with Irish, Scottish and English heritage have been surprised and delighted to discover they are members of a historic clan with an ancient history of warriors, leaders and even royalty. Some scholars claim the Celtic heritage dates back more than 6,000 years.

“My heritage is both Celtic and Swedish,” Clark said. “I had no plans to follow my Celtic roots, but one day after I mustered out of the U.S. Marine Corps, I was talking to my friend Steve Johnson, a retired Jamestown Police Captain, about our mutual interest in music, and the next thing I know… I’m wearing a kilt!”

Few cultural symbols are as firmly connected as the Celtic people and their bagpipes. The Celtic heritage is even reflected in the bagpipe Pam Silver plays as Pipe Major of the 96th Highlanders. It is now more than 200 years old. She first played the pipes at the age of 7, taught by family pipe masters, her aunt and her mother who, at the age of 82, still played her own bagpipe.

The Highlanders also offer bagpipe lessons under Pipe Major, Pam Silver. They are given in the time-tested ways, using a practice chanter, much like a flute, at first, and then graduating to the full bagpipe instrument after mastering the pipe fingering.

Honoring the traditions, values and cultures of the ancient world can include modern patriotism and love of country, too, according to Clark. The 96th Highlanders proudly wear the Ferguson Tartan, the traditional plaid of the Ferguson Clan. But the reason they chose the pattern is that it also prominently display within its intricate weavings, bold strands of red, white and blue.

The traditional food, crafts and the Gathering of the Clans promise to make the 7th Annual Celtic Festival one of the region’s premier summer gatherings. Festival goers should be prepared for a smiling Celtic welcome to Ceilidh, the ancient Celtic name for food and good times among the clansmen.

Jamestown Gazette readers can learn more by logging on to the Festival’s website at http://www.96thhighlanders.com/festival.html or by calling Doug Clark at (814)-323-7360.