hen Celtic pride is on display, the bagpipes play, the dancing begins and people throw rocks and wooden poles in rousing competitions.
That’s what will be on display Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15, as the Flathead Celtic Festival unfolds at Herron Park near Kalispell. Friday hours are 3 to 7 p.m.; Saturday the event runs all day, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This will be the third such festival in the Flathead, event chairman Rob Eberhardy said. Last year’s festival was canceled due to smoke from wildfires.
“We’ve lengthened the festival to two days this year, which allows for more music and dancing,” Eberhardy said. “It also allows us to include more kids’ activities and to increase the number of divisions in our Highland Games to be able to include kids and juniors.”
The festival features Irish and Highland Dancing, with music from Top House, the Montana Shamrockers, Tra Le Gael and others, as well as bagpipe music.
A bagpipe and drum grand-entry parade starts at noon Saturday with the Glacier Park VFW Post 2252 color guard and the Montana Highlander Bagpipe Band leading the way.
The mission of the Flathead Celtic Festival is to showcase the Celtic history of the Flathead Valley and bring people closer to their own cultural heritage, whether of the Celtic Nations or not, Eberhardy said.
Eberhardy, who hails from the ethnic melting pot of Milwaukee, has Scottish heritage on his mother’s side of the family. He helped launch the Flathead Celtic Festival after participating in similar events in the Bitterroot Valley for a number of years.
“I thought, why not do this in the Flathead? This is fun,” he said.
Eberhardy is a bass drummer with the Montana Highlanders, and he loves the competition of the Highland Games.
“These games originated from people getting together in the spring and fall to see each other and sell things,” he said. “It was a good time for families to get together, and they started to play games.”
One of the most popular games, the caber toss, involves participants holding a large tapered pole, similar to a telephone pole, in the air and then flipping it over. Some of the games involve throwing very heavy stones.
“There are a lot of weights [used] for distance. It’s throwing pretty heavy objects up and over things,” Eberhardy explained.
There’s also a sheaf toss, a traditional Scottish agricultural sport event in which a pitchfork is used to hurl a burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar above the competitor’s head.
The Flathead Celtic Festival’s Highland Games are fully sanctioned. Ardent competitors can go on to national and even international competition.
Eberhardy said the territories that are considered Celtic nations include Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Celtic clans and families, along with vendors of wares and food, will be set up at Herron Park. A community tent will offer beer from Bias Brewing, Tamarack Brewing Company, and Flathead Lake Brewing Company.
Admission to the festival is free and open to the public. For more information call 406-314-2568; go to flatheadcelticfestival.com or go to the Flathead Celtic Festival Facebook page.
Features Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.