Folks who love Ireland or Scotland should head to Belfast July 21-22 for the Sixth Annual Maine Celtic Celebration, which commemorates the state’s Celtic heritage with athletic competitions, music, dancing, and food.
Based on Belfast Common, the festival features the Highland Heavy Games, which sees competitors testing their skills in such events as the Caber Toss, the Heavy Weight Throw, the Open Stone Put, the Scottish Hammer Throw, and the Weight Over the Bar. Athletes take the competition seriously; visitors are invited to watch the action as the Highland Heavy Games start at 8:30 a.m., Sunday, July 22 on Belfast Common.
Other athletic, albeit stressful competitions slated for the Maine Celtic Celebration include:
• July 21, 1 p.m.: The Kids Wellington Boot Toss and Highland Games at Steam Boat Landing.
• July 21, 3 p.m.: A tug of war at Steam Boat Landing.
• July 22, 12 noon: The Molly Malone Wheelbarrow Race, involving a wild wheelbarrow dash on a 100-yard course at Steam Boat Landing.
• July 22, 2 p.m. The Isle of Mann Three-Legged Race will take place at Steam Boat landing.
The United States National Cheese Roll Championship will feature competitors and cheese alike rolling on the Belfast Common slope starting at 1 p.m., July 22. Facing off in the appropriate age and gender groups, competitors chase a 3-pound cheese wheel downhill; the person who successfully captures the elusive cheese wheel is declared the winner in each category.
“Each wheel is composed of three full pounds of our customers’ favorite kind of cheese, creamy cheddar cheese,” said Cathe Morrill, whose Rockport-based State of Maine Cheese Co. provides the cheese wheels. “All you can eat, just for chasing your dream sliding down the slippery slope.”
According to Morrill, each cheese wheel is “enclosed in natural rind, impervious to penetration by any substance.” Each champion cheese wheel chaser can remove the rind and start eating the “rich and yummy 48 ounces of pure cheddar cheese,” she said.
The Maine Celtic Festival will feature the Sixth Annual Celtic 5K Road Race, set for Saturday, July 21. The race begins at Belfast Area High School on Waldo Avenue. Walkers step off at 8:15 a.m., runners at 8:30 a.m. Registration is $15 per individual prior to July 21 and $18 per individual on July 21.
No Celtic celebration would be complete without music, and the Maine Celtic Celebration has scheduled performers to appear both days at three venues: the main stage on Belfast Common, the Steam Boat Stage, and the Belfast Boat House. For a complete schedule of musical entertainment, log onto http://www.mainecelticcelebration.com/uploads/files/MCC_Schedule___12.pdf.
Among the scheduled performers are:
• Chrissy Crowley, a Celtic musician and fiddler from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. Her albums include the 2010-released “The Departure” and the 2007-released “Chrissy Crowley.”
• Emma Walsh and Chuck Donnelly, a Maine-based Irish music duo that recently released the “Fresh Celtic” album. Walsh plays the fiddle; Donnelly provides guitar and percussion.
• Hanz Araki and The Mighty Few. Araki is an Irish flute player named “Male Newcomer of the Year 2005” by liveireland.com.
• Michael Black, who grew up singing and playing in Ireland. Now based in California, he performs traditional Irish music.
• Naia, a Portland-based duo comprising harpist Danielle Langord and flutist Nicole Rabata. Naia performs Celtic music from Brittany, Ireland, Quebec, and Scotland.
• Pat Kane, an upstate New York instrumentalist and singer who specializes in the bodhran, fiddle, and guitar.
• Ryan McGiver and Pádraig Rynne, a duo that performs American folk songs and Breton and Irish music.
• Sprag Session, a five-member group that plays music described as “a kind of Celtic fusion.”
• Stanley and Grimm, a Cape Cod-based duo comprising accompanist, balladeer, and songwriter Sean Brennan and fiddler Nikki Engstrom.
• The Press Gang, a trio formed by guitarist Owen Marshall, fiddler Alden Robinson, and squeezebox player Christian Stevens. Their music has been described as “new music in the Irish tradition.”
• Vishten, a trio comprising the twin sisters Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc from Prince Edward Island and Pascal Miousse from the Magdelen Islands. Vishten performs new and traditional Acadian music; “the sound is essentially Celtic, but with a difference,” the group’s Web site indicates.
Maine Celtic Celebration visitors can also join the musical entertainment by attending workshops and jam sessions. Among the scheduled activities there are:
July 21, 9:30 a.m.: Morning jam session at the Belfast Boat House.
July 21, 10:30: Irish flute and whistle with Hanz Araki at the Belfast Boat House.
July 21, 11:30 a.m.: Lauren Hollister will perform Irish dancing at the Belfast Boat House.
July 21, 1:15 p.m.: Learn about step dancing at the Steam Boat Stage with “Cape Breton Stepping with Bob McCormick.”
July 21, 3:30 p.m.: Michael Black will teach traditional Irish songs at the Belfast Boat House.
July 21, 5 p.m.: Afternoon jam session at the Belfast Boat House.
July 22, 9 a.m.: Morning jam session at the Belfast Boat House.
July 22, 12 noon: Emily Smaha will perform Scottish dancing at the Belfast Boat House.
July 22, 3 p.m.: Afternoon jam session at the Belfast Boat House.
Throughout the food, food and craft vendors will be set up around the Belfast Common so that visitors need not wander far in search of refreshments or Celtic gifts.
For more information about the Maine Celtic Celebration, log onto www.mainecelticcelebration.com.