Belfast gears up for weekend of Celtic events

Posted July 14, 2009, at 8:53 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The U.S. National Cheese Roll Championship, traditional music, boot-tossing, wheelbarrow and kilt races, dancing, singing and fireworks will be just part of the fun at the Maine Celtic Celebration.

The event will be held Saturday and Sunday, July 18 and 19, at Belfast Common and the Boathouse at Steamboat Landing Park overlooking the waterfront. There also will be a benefit barbecue Friday evening at the boathouse, and the celebration will wrap up Sunday afternoon with a Celtic jam “Sessiun” on the common. All events are free.

“I think it’s going to be bigger and better than ever this year,” planning committee member Ron Braybrook said. “A lot of people are talking about it and a lot of people are looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of the same fun and games.”

Saturday’s events will begin at 9 a.m. with a parade down Main Street and end 12 hours later with fireworks over Belfast Harbor.

New this year will be a Celtic Dogs Show where people can show off their Scotties, border collies, Irish setters, Welsh corgis, Irish wolfhounds and any other Celtic breed or wanna-breeds at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

“One guy insists yellow Labs are Celtic so he’s coming,” Braybrook said. “It’s not competitive or anything. It’s just bring your Celtic dog and wheel it around the common.”

Another event added this year is the Kid’s Welly Boot Toss, which will see how far “a kid can throw a Wellington boot,” he said. That will take place at noon Sunday.

The always popular National Cheese Roll Championship will be held at about 3:40 p.m. Saturday on the common. Competitors in each age group will race downhill to catch rolling cheese wheels — donated by State of Maine Cheese Co. in Rockport — down the slope toward the bay. The person who captures the cheese wheel wins the entire 3-pound hunk of cheese. Cheese rolling dates back to the 1800s in the United Kingdom, now celebrated each year at the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake near Gloucester in the county of Gloucestershire in southwest England, and the Maine Celtic Celebration has become home to the U.S. National Champi-onship Cheese Roll.

Also back this year is the Molly Malone Wheelbarrow Race, which will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday on Steamboat Landing followed by the Isle of Man Three Legged Race. In the barrow race, two-person teams — one in the wheelbarrow and the other pushing — race to be the first to retrieve photos of “Cockles and Mussels.”

The three-legged race, “is just what it sounds like,” Braybrook said. “Though I wonder how many will get the joke. The Isle of Man symbol is a red flag with three legs in the middle.”

There will be a Kilted Run and Row, which requires contestants to make a kilt, run through the grounds to the water’s edge, climb aboard a boat and row around a course leading back to the starting line. The race will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday.

A mud flats tug of war will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by a Men in Kilts beauty contest at 2:15 p.m. The Cod Toss Relay will take place at 3:20 p.m. Saturday.

The Highland Games will take place on the landing beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday.

There will be genealogy, tin whistle, bodhran, step dance and other workshops Saturday at the boathouse.

There will be a constant run of performances from the Maine Highland Fiddlers, Boghat, Frank Taylor the Flying Scotsman, Bohola, Long Time Courting, Ferg n’ Sons, Brendan McVeigh, the Belfast Singers, The Milliners, and Castlebay, as well as demonstrations of Celtic and Irish dancing throughout the two-day festival.

Traditional and exotic food and refreshments will be available each day.

For more information and performance schedules, visit mainecelticcelebration.com.

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