BELFAST — Toss a caber, chase a cheese roll, and catch the best Irish and Scottish music during the Maine Celtic Celebration, slated to take place Friday through Sunday, July 15-17.
“The purpose of the festival is to maintain the Celtic heritage of the midcoast,” where “the Celtic lineage runs really deep,” said Matt Smith, vice president of the MCC board of directors. Last year the festival attracted “the biggest crowd yet to date,” and he anticipates excellent attendance for the 2011 festival.
Scheduled events include a dog show for Celtic and Irish breeds, a parade, the Mudflats Tug of War, the Molly Malone Wheelbarrow Race and the Highland Games. Designed for children, the Not So Heavy Highland Games will be held July 16; the Highland Heavy Games, featuring such traditional Scottish competitions as the caber toss and a heavy weight throw, will start at 8:30 a.m. July 17, on Belfast Common.
The New World Cheese Roll Championships will start at 1 p.m. July 17 at Belfast Common. “It’s chaos for eight heats as people chase the cheese roll” downhill, and “people line the fence to watch,” Smith said. Provided by the State of Maine Cheese Co. in Rockport, each cheese roll weighs 3 pounds; each heat’s winner gets “to keep the cheese. It is still edible,” Smith said.
As in past years, the Maine Celtic Celebration will feature outstanding music. Hanz Araki, a renowned Irish whistle player from Spokane, Wash., will perform with his band during a Friday, July 15, reception and dinner at the Belfast Boat House. Araki also will perform onstage during the festival.
Other featured musicians are:
• John Doyle and John Williams, performing with the Celtic rhythm guitar and button accordion. Born in Dublin, Doyle now lives in Asheville, N.C. Williams was a founding member of Solas, as was Doyle. He and Williams will appear Saturday on the main stage, Sunday on the main stage and at the Belfast Boat House.
• Frank Taylor, known as “The Flying Scotsman.” He has appeared at the last four Celtic festivals.
• The band Prydein, which plays bagpipe rock.
• Maximum Blue, a Maine band featuring the fiddle and guitar.
• Heather Morris and Doug Webster, performing Highland dancing and playing the pipes.
Music is vital to the festival, according to music coordinator Chris Brinn. “I think it’s the key element. I’m originally from Cornwall, and music and song are a big part of our culture. It would be difficult to have a Celtic celebration without music,” Brinn said. Festival music “not only represents Celtic culture, but also the influence of America on Celtic music,” Brinn said. “We hope to offer a cross-section of styles, including Irish and Irish-American, Scottish and Cape Breton, and, of course, New England dance music. Good bands keep the audience involved whether they are trying to tear the place down with jigs and reels or conveying songs of love and loss. Some of the best combinations are duos and trios.”
The festival also will feature such Maine-based bands as the Maine Highland Fiddlers and the Napper Tandies.
According to Smith, “new for this year is the after-hours jam session and concerts,” slated to start at 9:30 p.m. July 16, at the Belfast Boat House. There is a $3 admission “to join the bands in a jam session,” he said.
Volunteer coordinator Diane Braybrook said, “Volunteers are involved in all areas of the celebration.” Some 60 volunteers will assist with the parade, a road race, the Highland Games, and other activities. “It would be impossible to pull off this weekend without the volunteers.”
According to vendor coordinator Ron Braybrook, food vendors will sell the typical British fish and chips and perhaps Cornish pasty, as well as barbecue, hot dogs, ice cream, shaved ice and other festival-type food. People attending the Maine Celtic Celebration often spread blankets on Belfast Common and eat while watching musicians perform onstage.
Other vendors will feature merchandise “with a Celtic flavor,” Braybrook said, listing “jewelry, souvenirs such as flags, placemats and dish towels, bodhran drums, and Celtic music” as items people can buy during the festival. A professional photographer and a watercolorist will display their works.
One vendor will sell dog clothing, such as coats and leashes, “all with a Celtic flavor, like a tartan dog coat,” Braybrook said.
Admission is free to the Maine Celtic Celebration. For more information and a schedule of events, visit http://www.mainecelticcelebration.com.