Annual Celtic Festival opens tonight at Sycamore Shoals

Published 9:29 am Friday, September 5, 2014


Sheep-herding dogs, jousting knights and skilled archers will take over Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park this weekend for the annual East Tennessee Celtic Festival.
The festival will start tonight at 7 with a torchlight ceremony and a calling of the clans.
The main activities will begin on Saturday morning, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m. The festival will include live music, dancing, Scottish heavy athletics, archery competition, crafting demonstrations, sheep herding, weapon and armor displays and demonstrations. A children’s area including crafts, face painting and more will be available.
ETCF Events Director Justine Kinch said the annual event has been held for the past 20 years, with the last 14 at Sycamore Shoals. The festival regularly draws thousands of people each year.
“We usually have around 3,000 people at the festival,” Kinch said. “On our lowest year, we still had 1,400. It is a big event.”
ETCF Board of Directors member Ricky Lloyd said the festival was so popular because of the area’s Celtic roots.
“A lot of the early settlers in the region had Scottish and Irish roots,” Lloyd said. “Families are generally very proud of their heritage, and that heritage’s influence is still seen today.”
While the festival has a full schedule for the weekend, there are a few activities that are crowd favorites. Organizers say these include the Lords of Chivalry jousting demonstration, Bill Coeburn’s herding border collies, the Scottish heavy athletics and the musical performances.
Kinch said the Lords of Chivalry show would be different from past few years. Instead of jousting at each other, the knights will be tilting, or jousting at a target.
“Spectators will still get to see the horses run and the men in their armor,” Kinch said. “They will just be charging at a target instead of another rider.”
The Lords of Chivalry will perform at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The herding border collies will put on their show at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. both days of the festival. The dogs will be herding sheep and ducks.
“That is always a big crowd favorite,” she said.
Lloyd described the Scottish heavy athletics as one of the “hardest regularly practiced athletics” that is around today.
One of the most recognized events is the caber toss. During the caber toss, the participants must toss and flip what is usually described as a utility pole.
Lloyd continued that the musical performances were always a fan favorite. Musical performances are held throughout the day with a concert beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The headliners are Maidens IV. Other performers are Sigean, Night Crossing and Kryss Dula and Friends.
Lloyd said the festival will continue rain or shine, and that the musical performances are held under a large tent.
Kinch added that there are both indoor and outdoor events scheduled during the festival. The indoor events will be held inside the Sycamore Shoals visitors center, including the Irish Skye Dancers, penny whistle lessons, author Abbott Brayton and the best-knees-in-a-kilt contest.
The festival will close at 5 p.m. on Saturday with the concert starting at 6 p.m. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $7 per person with children under the age of 11 admitted free. Students with East Tennessee State University IDs or those that bring a canned food item to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank will receive $1 off of the ticket price.
The schedule of events and more information can be found at

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