Annual Celtic Festival on tap for Oct. 21-23

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Contributed Photo Next weekend's Celtic Festival will feature a special performance by The Screaming Orphans, an all sister band from Donegal Ireland.

Contributed Photo
This weekend’s Celtic Festival will feature a special performance by The Screaming Orphans, an all sister band from Donegal Ireland.

The annual Celtic Festival and Games will take place at Sycamore Shoals State Park this weekend and event organizers say this year’s event is “jam-packed” with fun.
Each year the Upper East Tennessee Celtic Society hosts the festival. This year will make the 22nd year the UETCS has held a Celtic Festival. It began in Jonesborough but 16 years ago it moved to Sycamore Shoals State Park and it has continued to grow in success each year.
“We actually have three stages set up this year,” said Justine Kinch, the events director for the UETCS.
Music is always a favorite at the festival and this year the headlining act will be the Screaming Orphans, an all sister band hailing from Donegal, Ireland. The weekend will also see performances by local favorites Sigean as well as the group Raven and Red. Kinch said the event will also features a Celtic Jam Sessions as well as performances by harpists, drummers, and, of course, pipers.
And what would a Celtic Festival be without some Highland Games.
“We have the largest Scottish Highland Games ever held at Sycamore Shoals this year,” Kinch said, adding there will be men’s women’s and youth divisions this year. The games will be administered by Tennessee Highland Heavy Athletics. For more information on the Games or to register, visit the Tennessee Highland Heavy Athletics website at
During the weekend there will a wide variety of demonstrations and contests. Dr. Ben Ousley will present his Sheepherding demonstrations using Border Collies. Wendy Overman will be portraying the famous Irish pirate Grace O’Malley.  In addition to being a pirate, Grace O’Malley was chieftain of the Ó Máille clan in the west of Ireland, following in the footsteps of her father Eoghan Dubhdara Ó Máille. Overman will give a presentation on O’Malley and will also give a swordfighting demonstration.
There will be costume contests for both children and adults, a pet parade on Sunday, and a Best Legs In A Kilt contest.
“We have improved our kids area this year,” Kinch said. “The kids area has a theme of King Arthur’s Castle this year.”
“The kids will get to pull a sword from a stone and Merlin himself might make an appearance,” she added.
The weekend long festival will also feature a number of vendors, food, demonstrations, reenactments of 18th and 19th Century heritage, lectures, song and dance.
On Sunday morning the day will begin with the Kirkin of the Tartans, which is a small church ceremony, and then festival goers will get a special treat.
“We are having an actual handfasting, which is a wedding,” Kinch said. “We have the Kirkin of the Tartans and the wedding follows immediately after the Kirkin.”
This year’s festival will take place on Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 23. Friday evening’s festivities will include the Calling of the Clans Torchlight Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. followed by a Clan Reception that is free to attend for all Clan members. Saturday and Sunday will both see a full day of events beginning each morning at 10 a.m. and running until 5 p.m. Saturday night will see a special evening Ceilidh, or concert, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and concluding at 9:30 p.m.
The cost per person is $7 per day or $20 for the weekend which includes the Saturday night concert. If purchased separately, tickets to the Saturday night concert are $12.
The Upper East Tennessee Celtic Society will also have a booth set up at the festival to share information about the Society and sign up new members. Cost for membership in the Society is $10 for one person, $15 for a couple and $25 for a family.
For for a full schedule of events, more information on the Celtic Festival or the Upper East Tennessee Celtic Society, visit them online at or find them on Facebook at

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