“The whole atmosphere is a total immersion into the Celtic world,” says event founder Anne Macpherson. “The Celtic world has always been something of romance and mystery and magic, with an undercurrent that’s very primal.”
Of course, Celtic festivals are nothing new, but what sets this event apart is the pan-Celtic theme. “We honor all eight Celtic nations,” explains Macpherson. “The problem with Scottish Highland games and Irish festivals is that they tend to be discriminatory. Here, the entire Celtic world is right in your own backyard—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the touch, and the taste. You can visit eight nations in one day.”
Macpherson acknowledges that the most important aspect of this festival is music and this is where the generation gap finds its bridge. “Music encompasses every aspect of Celtic life,” she says. “We bring in the very top names of Celtic fusion and Celtic world beat. Celtic rock ’n’ roll is going mainstream, and fusion bands take their ancestral music and push the envelope using traditional instruments. Music is a universal language that everybody can understand and it’s especially appealing to the young people. To keep the heritage and culture alive, and in order to catch the kids, you have to have something they want and like.”
Headlining the many musical acts this year are Enter The Haggis, the Toronto-based Celtic rock band that has spawned legions of “Haggis Heads”; the explosive Scottish sextette Albannach, which features five drummers and a piper; and the McKrells, longstanding folk rockers from Albany. Also on the roster is an event called Piping Outside the Box, in which pipe bands create 30-minute compositions using not only pipes and drums, but cellos, fiddles, saxophones, and whatever other instruments they choose; the event is judged in American Idol fashion.
Among the many other things to see and do, there will be jousting with real knights on real horses; a living Celtic timeline with over 100 reenactors set up chronologically; a British classic car show; a derby thoroughbred tent with off-track betting; a parade of Celts; birds of prey; goose herding; a kilted race (nothin’ under those kilts, either!); dragon slaying; a spoken-word tent with noted Scottish authors; Highland step dancing; an ancient Beltane fire festival with torch light parade and fire dancers; and the strange Scottish tradition of the Highland Games, or “heavy athletics,” in which men in kilts throw very heavy rocks and telephone poles. There will be plenty of Celtic foods, “and, most importantly, a lot of good beer,” Macpherson adds with a laugh.
Celebration of Celts will be held at the Meadowgreens Golf Resort in Ghent on May 5 and 6. Gates open each morning at 11am. (518) 851-9670; www.celebrationofcelts.com
More than one-third of Americans descend from Celtic roots, tracing their ancestry back to one of the eight Celtic nations: Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Brittany, Asturias, or Galicia. So, if you haven’t yet checked out the largest pan-Celtic festival in the Northeast, now’s the time. Currently in its fourth year, the Celebration of Celts has expanded into a two-day event (May 5-6) rejoicing in history, heritage, music, and dance.