Celtic Festival and Gathering of the Clans

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Contributing Writer
Paul Leone

The Jamestown Regional Area Celtic Festival and Gathering O’ the Clans, scheduled for August 25 and 26 at Mayville’s Lakeside Park, promises a celebration of all things Gaelic complete with the color and exuberance, music and food, and strenuous physical competitions the Celtic nations are famous for. Expectations are high for a heavy turnout, perhaps exceeding 2019’s more than 5000 guests. This year marks the sixteenth annual Celtic Festival, inaugurated in 2005 and revived last year after a two year Covid required hiatus.

Jamestown’s very own 96th Highlanders Pipes and Drums band is once again proud to host the festival. The Highlanders represent Jamestown and Chautauqua County in numerous events, parades and concerts throughout the year in Western New York. The organization was established in 2001 under the leadership of President Doug Clark, active member of the 96th Highlanders, whose indefatigable enthusiasm for his band and the festival continues to bring a well deserved attention to Chautauqua County. Doug was instrumental in bringing the Celtic Festival to Mayville. The Highlanders are one of a large selection of pipe bands eager to perform at the Festival.

The festival opens Friday evening August 25 at 6:30 PM—Ceilidh (Kay-lee) Friday– with a musical presentation until 10:00 by the band Tuatha Dea from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Ceilidh is the Gaelic word for a traditional gathering of family and friends for the simple purpose of fun and music. Tuatha Dea is an old Irish expression meaning “Children of the Gods. The band is a motley assemblage of men and women largely from the same family who perform pure cutting edge Appalachian rock using a variety of instruments including guitar, flute, digeridoo, bagpipes and penny whistle. This is a no nonsense band whose stage presence and over the top energy keeps the audience moving. Not to be missed.

Celtic, pronounced with a hard C, refers to the six regions widely considered today to be Celtic nations. Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales comprise the six. Cultural traits have survived in each of these regions from as far back as the twelfth century. The Celtic Festival strives to preserve these cultural traits. In addition to Tuatha Dea a number of other bands with names like Ballinloch, Celtic Creek and Emerald Isle, and a festival favorite from Ontario—the Mudmen– will perform music throughout Saturday both in the Celtic Music Tent along Vendor Row and in the festival’s Beer and Wine Garden. Scottish dancers from Canada and Irish dancers from Dunkirk will step to the music morning and afternoon in the Music Tent.

Fiddling? Of course. From 2:30 until 5:00 PM Saturday a come and go old time Fiddling Session will be held in a special 20 by 40 foot tent.

It goes without saying that food, as in any festival, will be provided from a variety of vendors. Everything from Shepherd’s Pie, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and your basic hamburger to Fish and Chips, Corned Beef Reubens and Philly steaks with curly fries. Likewise, many vendors along Vendor Row will offer for sale Celtic themed merchandise ranging from the simple, as in Festival shirts and costume jewelry, Irish and Scottish items such as bagpipes, kilts and accessories, to high end items such as hand turned wood and inlaid beadwork.

Look for the popular Buffalo Heavies Men and Women Athletes to compete in traditional Celtic contests of strength and endurance. The Scottish Highland Games, integral to the Festival, mimic ancient Celtic competitions. Six events, including a Stone Throw and the Scottish Hammer Throw wherein weighted objects are hurled for distance, will be judged. And, for the wee ones, a Kids’ area has been set aside for a mini Kids’ Heavies contest.

And what of the Gathering O’ the Clans? The Scottish clan from the Gaelic word clann is a kinship group united by family or offspring. Modern clans have an official structure with regulated Scottish heraldry and coats of arms. More than twenty Scottish clans have registered for the festival and will be on hand in respective tents to promote themselves and encourage enrollment. Colorful examples of coats of arms may be seen at the 96th Highlanders’ comprehensive website: https://www.96thhighlanders.com/festival/Festival.html.

The Jamestown Area Regional Celtic Festival and Gathering O’ the Clans is a family-friendly event guaranteed to delight and entertain festival goers of all ages. The festival opens Saturday morning August 26 at 9:00 AM and continues through 9:30 in the evening. The Mudmen from Ontario performing from 7:00 until closing are the festival’s finale.

A complete schedule of events may be seen by consulting the 96th Highlanders website. Discounted tickets may be purchased online at https://96thhighlanderspipesdrumsinc.ticketspice.com/highland-games.

Festival goers should be aware that insurance regulations forbid the presence of pets on festival grounds.