Celtic fest a first for Holland

Have you ever thrown the log or the sheaf? Do these words sound a little strange?

For the first time ever, Holland will be able to see Highland games like this on Saturday 25th June at the inaugural Holland Waterfront Celtic Festival.

Celtic music and food will also be part of the all-day family-friendly fun.

Co-director Craig Rich has tried his hand at other festivals, volunteering for Tulip Time or the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Downtown Holland, and he helps run Michigan Shipwreck Associates, which offers an annual history presentation, but this is his first time trying his hand at an all day festival. And he started planning in the middle of a pandemic.

“Judging by the ticket sales and excitement in the community, I’d say we hit a nerve,” says Rich.
A map shows the schedule of the Holland Waterfront Celtic Festival and Highland Games on Saturday 25th June.
A strange beginning

Designing the festival layout, hiring bands and vendors, reaching out to Scottish clans – most of this was still happening under partial COVID restrictions. As the year went by and restrictions eased, more and more people came on board to help.

Superintendent Mark DeJong was busy preparing Window on the Waterfront (corner of Sixth Street and Columbia Avenue) for the festival.

Rich jokingly refers to himself and his co-director Peter Grimm as “mutts”.

“He is like me. He’s a mutt. We are Irish, we are German, we are Scots, we are Swedes. We have a lot to celebrate in our lineage,” says Rich. “A lot of people go to festivals that don’t represent them. They want to honor that, or celebrate, or just have fun. We get along well with all of this.”

The Sheaf Toss is one of many Highland Games that will form part of the Holland Waterfront Celtic Festival on Saturday at the Window on the Waterfront.
What is a caber?

For the record, the caber toss is a traditional Scottish sporting event in which competitors throw a large tapered pole called a caber, and the sheaf toss is an athletic competition that originated in the fields of Scotland where competitors use a pitchfork, to hurl a heavy burlap sack filled with straw over a horizontal pole.

More than 50 athletes – men and women – will compete on Saturday, throwing heavy weights for height and distance.

music and dance and more

Acoustic Vagabondi, Selkie, Ironwood, The Mona Shores Fiddlers, Uneven Ground, Crossbow and The Conklin Ceili Band will perform in the festival’s Irish Pub Tent.

Four Michigan Irish and Scottish dance schools will perform on the dance stage – McClintic School of Highland Dance, Ardan Academy of Irish Dance, Scoil Rince Ni Bhraonain and The Michigan Irish Dance Academy.

The Muskegon Regional Police Pipe and Drum Band and Hugh Irwin, the Kilted Magician will also perform.

Irish and Scottish food, as well as Irish beers, whiskey and scotch and other alcoholic beverages are also available for purchase.

A children’s area provides entertainment for the “little kids” – or little kids.

All activities take place rain or shine (except for inclement weather).

In the Scottish clan village, participants can discover their Celtic roots or learn more about 18 different Scottish clans.

Ceilidh

Friday cèilidh (pronounced Kay’-Lee) is an Irish music and dance party. Rich anticipates the event will sell out for those 21 and older. Tickets are $20 per person and also include entry to Saturday’s activities. All tickets are available in advance from the Holland Celtic Festival website as well as at the gate (although Rich recommends attendees buy in advance).

Friday night starts at 7pm with The Leprecons and Crossbow on stage. There will be a cash register.

Tickets for Saturday’s festival include a full day of Celtic bands and are $10 for ages 13 and older. Those 12 and under are free.

“Holland is very good at partying,” says Rich. “We celebrate all ethnic groups. Holland is very good at getting together and having fun. If you’re bored in Holland this summer, just don’t try it.”

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