On October 16 and 17, Venus Park will host the 4th Annual Edgewood Celtic Festival, and the weekend promises to be full of family-friendly entertainment, said festival organizer and Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival director Libby Casarez.
In addition to the heavy athletics festival-goers have come to expect from the Highland Games, there will be a variety of musical acts from several pipe and drum troupes, said Casarez—to include the Westwind, Order of the Thistle, Mac-Tire of Skye, and New Mexico Fire and Police Pipes and Drums.
“Music was always important to the people, and you played it on whatever you had,” said Sue Jacobi, piper and instructor with the Western United States Pipe Band Association.
Traditional music will be performed by bands Jiggernaut, the Duke City Céilí Band, and the Celtic Coyotes.
There will be harps, fiddles, and a workshop for the bodhrán, or Irish drum, with Dain Forsyth.
Performers from the McTaggart School of Irish Dance, the Sliabh (pronounced Slieve) Sandia Set Dancers, the Belisama Irish Dance Company, and the Brightburn Academy of Irish Dance will both compete and entertain on Saturday.
Michele Buchanan & the Celtic Singers will do a live demo of “waulking the wool” both days of the festival. Waulking was a tedious step in woolen cloth making that was brightened by the singing of the workers, which led to the creation of the traditional waulking songs found throughout Northern Europe.
The event will have food vendors—both savory and sweet, including beer and old-fashioned soda crafters, and various merchandise vendors. There will be a kids’ area sponsored by Aunt Goodie featuring face painting, crafts, storytelling, and book giveaways.
Amtgard, a live-action role-playing group, will be on hand for a Fight-a-Knight event, wherein kids get “to batter knights with rubber swords,” said Casarez. They’ll also have a medieval-style, blunt-tip archery range set up for kids, she said.
There will be a Celtic dog parade featuring breeds like Irish setters, Welsh corgis, border collies, and Shetland sheepdogs.
“Celts have always been animal people,” said Terry Smith, a Celtic dog handler whose own Gordon setter, the 3-legged Eila Jean McBean, will be “working in the Celtic dog exhibit doing meet-and-greets,” she said.
In addition to traditional Highland Games heavy athletics, the festival will also hold tugs-of war, a Haggis Hurl, and a Boulder Boogie, where competitors must carry a heavy stone while walking a 50-foot loop. The fastest finisher in each class wins the decorative stone.
The athletic games portion of the Celtic Festival starts with the men’s and women’s master classes, which compete throughout the day on Saturday.
The A, B, and C classes, the men’s and women’s light classes, the youth class, and the women’s open will take place throughout Sunday.
Casarez, a Highland Games competitor herself, will not be competing this year as she’ll be coordinating the event, but master class athletes over 40 will be vying for a spot in the Scottish Highland Games Masters World Championship to be held in Austin, Texas later this year.
Multiple events comprise the games, like the caber toss, stone put, hammer throw, weight for distance throw, weight for height throw, and sheaf toss.
The festival will also include elements of traditional Celtic history, with the Irish American Society and the Association of Highland Clans and Societies in attendance.
These organizations aim to further connectivity between Celtically-descended people through education, recreation, storytelling, music, and dance. The RGVCF shares those ambitions, said Casarez.
“Our goal is to help with scholarships for any of the athletes, pipers, and dancers that want to go to clinics, or World Master Competitions, piping competitions, dance competitions,” she said. “We want to be able to give them scholarships as each year comes along, and we strive to do so.”
A full schedule of events can be found on the Edgewood Celtic Festival Facebook page, and the festival is still looking for volunteers to help keep the event running smoothly. Plus, said Casarez, volunteers get in for free. Interested parties should go to celtfestabq.com and click the “Contact Us” link to volunteer.
Admission to the festival is $10 cash or $11 credit, and there will be an ATM on site, Casarez said. Tickets can be purchased at the gate. Children 11 and under get in free. Gates open at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and festivities and athletics will continue throughout the weekend.