Maine Celtic Celebration

Maine Celtic Celebration

Maine Celtic Celebration

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Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans

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The 12th annual Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans will be celebrated at The First Church in Belfast, United Church of Christ at 104 Church St., Belfast, on Sunday, July 17th, at the 10:00 a.m. worship service. Although not a formal part of The Maine Celtic Celebration, this event provides another opportunity to celebrate local Celtic heritage.

Literally, Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans” means “The blessing of the Tartans.” It reflects back to the time after the British loyalists defeated the Scottish Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. As punishment, Scots were forbidden to wear their kilts and tartans, and many of their men were pressed into service by the British government. Tradition holds that the women of the highland clans, whose men were far from home, would bring a small piece of their tartan to the Kirk (church) to be blessed secretly and to pray for heaven’s protection for the clan and for its members. Since that time, the tradition of the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans has evolved into a colorful, festive occasion for celebrating Scottish heritage. The congregation asks God’s blessings and protection for those represented by the tartans, recognizes the historical contributions of native Scots and Scottish-heritage Americans, and celebrates the faith traditions of the Celtic and Scottish peoples.

The First Church service includes things like the “calling of the clans” where anyone of Celtic descent can stand and shout out their family name; the “blessing of the bairns,” a special message and blessing for the children; and the “fields of the forest,” a remembrance of those who have died in the past year. The service also features Scottish or Irish music, sung and played on traditional instruments.

So bring the lads and lassies for a blessing and the whole clan, whether you’re Scottish or not, for a time of celebration and thanksgiving. For more information, call the church office, 338-2282 or check out the website at

Celtic Breeds Parade and Dog Show

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Saturday, July 16th on the Steamboat Stage

Parade: Meet at 9:30 at the Steamboat Stage

Show: Meet at 10:00 on the Steamboat Stage

Show off your Celtic breed at The Maine Celtic Celebration! All Celtic dogs and their owners are invited to join Steve Seekins, Faelan the Deerhound, and Maggie the Lurcher at 9:30 for a parade of the grounds led by a kilted piper followed at 10:00 by a “Meet the Celtic Breeds” dog show on the Steamboat Stage. Dog owners will do a short informal talk about their breed. Talks will include some information on the breed’s history and characteristics, their purpose and other interesting facts, along with any human interest stories about a specific dog.

Contact Steve Seekins to register in advance at Please include your name, contact information, your dog’s name, and breed.

Here’s a list of the Celtic breeds:


Bearded Collie, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Rough Coated Collie, Curly Coated Retriever, Dandy Dinmont Terrier, Lurcher, Scottish Deerhound, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Scottish Terrier, Shetland Sheepdog, Skye Terrier, West Highland Terrier


Glen of Imaal Terrier, Irish Setter, Irish Terrier, Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Wolfhound,

Kerry Beagle, Kerry Blue Terrier, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier


Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, English Black and Tan Terrier,

Sealyham Terrier, Welsh Hound, Welsh Sheepdog, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Welsh Terrier


Galician Barn Dog, Galician Hound, Galician Pointer, Galician Quisquelo


Brittany Spaniel, Brittany Fawn Griffon, Fawn Brittany Basset

Children’s Activities

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The Maine Celtic Celebration is synonymous with good music and cheer. But do you know what else the Celtic Festival brings to the city of Belfast? It brings an awesome children’s area where kids of all ages are welcome to explore and play.  Come and visit us and take part in the myriad of activities we have planned for the afternoon. There are things for all ages to do. You child not a sporty person? That’s okay. We will offer arts and crafts such as making marshmallow shamrock paintings and creating celtic designs on rocks as well as cup stacking as an activity. But that’s not all because  we cater to different interests. We will also have relay races happening at the same time, such as sack races and a balloon toss relay for those that are competitive. And finally, for those that prefer to work together, we will have activities that require teamwork, like the hula pass.   And let’s not forget the pièce de résistance: the boot toss, the miniature version of the heavy games. Kids will play, create, explore, and work together at these activities under the close eye of adults and volunteers. We also ask that parents please accompany your children so that the activities can work seamlessly.  So come on down and join the fun! We are open from 12-4 on both Saturday and Sunday, July 15th and 16th. Hope to see you there!

Cheese Roll

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Plan your visit to the Celtic Celebration so that you are on the Common on Sunday, July 17 at 1:30 PM. Whether you come to compete or just witness the Cheese Roll, you are in for an unforgettable experience.

Never heard of cheese rolling? In fact, cheese rolling dates back to the 1800s in the U.K. and is now celebrated each year at the “Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake” in the county of Gloucestershire in southwest England ( In recent years the competition in Gloucester has been at risk due to controversy about safety and security. But cheese rolling is alive and well at the Maine Celtic Celebration where all are welcome to watch and/or chase cheese.

The Cheese Roll Championships consists of ten races, organized based on age and gender of contestants. Contestants below the age of 18 should register in advance with an adult at the Celtic Celebration “store” located at the bottom of the cheese roll hill on Belfast Common. The number of competitors is unlimited for groups up to age 12. For older folks, the number is limited to ten racers. If more than ten show up to chase the cheese, they will have to race uphill first, and the first ten will be final contestants.

Each race begins with a five-pound wheel of cheese being rolled down the slope on Belfast Common toward the bay. The group will race to catch up with and grab the cheese wheel. The Grand Prize – each cheese wheel – is well worth the downhill plunge. The cheese wheel maker, Cathe Morrill, sponsoring owner of the State of Maine Cheese Company in Rockport, notes, “Each wheel is composed of our customers’ favorite kind of cheese, creamy cheddar cheese. All you can eat, just for chasing it down the slippery slope.” So, for a uniquely hilarious experience as a chaser or spectator, be there on Belfast Common at 1:30 PM on July 17th for the tenth annual New World Cheese Roll Championships!

Manx Uphill Three-Legged Race

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The Maine Celtic Celebration added a new race event in 2014, open to all. Inspired by the flag of the Isle of Man, one of the Celtic Nations, the Manx Three-Legged Uphill Race is a new twist on an old favorite. It’s really pretty simple. Contestants of all ages pair up, strap one leg each together, and race up “Cheese Roll Hill” to the finish line at the top. Our inaugural running of the race proved it’s not as easy as it sounds (if you think it sounds easy). But it CAN be done; therefore it SHOULD be done this year on Saturday, July 16th at 2:50 PM.

The race will be held in various heats, depending on the number of entrants, including: Youngsters, Youths, Teens, Adults, and Geezers. (FYI, Oxygen will NOT be available at the finish line.) There is no fee to enter and registration information will be available at the Celebration Store on Saturday morning, July 16. The race will be run rain or shine, and the only real rule is no cleats allowed. Prizes will be awarded.

Highland Heavy Games

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Still being held throughout each year in Scotland and in many other countries, the traditional Highland Heavy Games go all the way back to the 11th century and possibly even before that in the Scottish Highlands. The same games, under the same rules, will be played once again by athletes from near and far at the Maine Celtic Celebration in Belfast on Sunday, July 17, on Steamboat Landing by the bay.

Anyone is welcome to join the Highland Heavy Games competition for a $10 entry fee.  Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., and the games start at 9:00 a.m. and continue to the finish line in the afternoon.  It will be a long and hard day for the athletes, as the Highland Heavy Games test the strength and coordination of each competitor to their maximum capability.  But the Highland Heavy Games are always easy and fun to watch.

What you see is the sheer strength of someone putting every ounce of energy into one single action. It is like watching the Olympic Games firsthand, but in Celtic cultural form and tradition.

At the top of the agenda for the Maine Celtic Celebration 2016 is the Scottish Hammer Throw.  A heavy metal ball (12/16 pounds for women, 16/22 lbs. for men) is attached to a four-foot wooden shaft.  With both feet in fixed position, the athlete whirls the hammer overhead and then tosses it forward in an attempt to reach a longer distance than any hammers thrown by competitors.

The Caber Toss is probably the event best known to symbolize the Highland Heavy Games. In his or her hands, the athlete holds up and balances a long tapered pine pole, then runs forward and launches the caber and tries to flip it end over end the longest distance of any caber toss by competitors, relative to a straight “12 o’clock” path.

An Open Stone Put is similar to a shot put, yet with a heavy stone as the object (8-12 lbs. for women, 16-22 lbs. for men). The stone can be thrown by any method as long as the toss begins with the stone in one hand cradled in the athlete’s neck before being tossed the longest possible distance. There will be a Heavy Weight Throw (28 lbs. for women, 42 lbs. for “masters men”) and a similar throw with weights not quite so heavy (14 lbs. for women, 28 lbs. for men). Weights are metal with handles attached, thrown with one hand by the athlete, some putting a spin on their toss. Again the longest throw is the winner.

In the Weight Over the Bar event, also known as Weight for Height, the athlete heaves a very heavy weight (56 pounds, or 4 stones) over a horizontal bar.  Each competitor gets three tries, and those who are successful move to the next level in raising the bar until only one is left.

Whether you decide to compete or just watch, you will certainly be impressed by the individual strength and power of those who are serious competitors in these tough contests. If you are considering testing your strength in the Highland Heavy Games, you may contact Sam Denson via for more information.

Maine Celtic Celebration Scottish Heavy Athletics

Maine Celtic Celebration Scottish Heavy Athletics

Maine Celtic Celebration Scottish Heavy Athletics

Kilted Canter 5K Run/Walk

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The long-standing tradition of a Celtic Celebration 5K road race continues with this year’s running of the 4rd Annual Kilted Canter 5K Run on Saturday, July 16 at 8:30 a.m. Sponsored by the Belfast Rotary Club, the run will begin at Belfast Area High School and cover the same relatively flat course as in the past, through the lovely, picturesque, and proudly historic neighborhoods of Belfast, Maine, covering five kilometers or 3.1 miles. Everyone is welcome to join from those looking to run a personal best to families wanting to share a healthy run/walk. And while the wearing of a kilt is optional, it is encouraged in keeping with the Celtic Celebration weekend festivities.



When: Saturday, July 16, 2016, 8:30 a.m. start

Where: Belfast Area High School, 98 Waldo Avenue, Belfast, Maine

Race-day registration and Packet pick-up: Race day between 7:30-8:15 a.m.

Fee: $20 through July 13; $25 race day; $20 for active duty military; performance t-shirts are guaranteed for all runners who register by July 1; after that date, t-shirts are available while supplies last

Awards: Overall female and male; then top M & F in each of 9 age groups (pre-teen thru 80+)

Registration info: or

Contact: Contact: Ed Varney, 207-338-3763,


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Irish music’s accordion virtuoso Jimmy Keane and the remarkable bouzar player and vocalist Pat Broaders, comprise bohola, Irish music’s newest “supergroup” as penned by The Irish Herald. bohola play a driving, muscular, and yet very emotive style of Irish music with deep roots in the ‘pure drop’ tradition, infused with the raw and gritty urbanized musical vernacular of the Irish and Irish-American experience.

bohola’s debut album is championed by the Irish Voice as “one of the most impressive debut recordings ever by an Irish traditional music group.” The Courier News added, “Though most of the tunes bohola plays are well over 150 years old, the music comes across more vibrant than the moribund sounds of much of today’s alternative rock. Their sound comes from the Irish version of jam sessions, but bohola puts the noodling of many current jam bands (Dave Matthews, among others) to shame.”

The Irish Echo captured the essence of bohola when it reviewed their self-titled release. “The sum here is greater than the parts, and egos are subordinate to both execution and effect. bohola have crafted an album of intricate, nearly invisible latticework, relying not on gimmickry but on imagination and vision. What a welcome concept: muse-imbuing music.”

Born in London of Irish-speaking parents, Jimmy Keane’s accomplishments are far reaching. The son of a sean nos (old style) singer, he is All Ireland accordion champion for five consecutive years. He is a composer and arranger of Irish music and has produced and recorded numerous albums. Many regard Keane as the premier exponent of Irish music on the piano accordion. Noted University of Limerick Professor, composer, and musician Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin praised Keane as the “savior of the piano accordion.” Emusic described him as “one of the true giants of Irish traditional music of the past fifty years.”

Keane has performed and recorded with some of the best musicians in Irish music over the years including Liz Carroll, Michael Flatley, Mick Moloney, Eileen Ivers, and Seamus Egan. However, it was not until he started playing with Pat Broaders that the style of Irish music that Keane plays “really started to jell and this big huge raw and powerful sound came out of nowhere,” reflected Keane. “We were like a glove – instinctively darting in and out of the music as if we were “as-one” playing the same big instrument.”

Pat Broaders arrived in Chicago from Ireland in the 1990’s. “Pat is a real veteran of the Irish music scene both here and abroad, playing, recording, and performing with many artists and bands over the years,” said Keane. “Pat has this acute sense of music and rhythm that enables him to “lock in” his bouzar (bass bouzouki & guitar hybrid) playing to whatever I might do musically and rhythmically. The synergy that results spurs on bohola and draws in the audience. And his singing is brilliant – if I could sing, I’d love to sing like Pat.”

bohola’s key to their sound is the interplay between the musicians and the approach they take to their music. “It is the music that counts,” states Keane. “We really listen to and respond to each other when we play – bending, twisting, and caressing the music as it flows along.” Keane considers bohola fortunate to be able to perform and carry forward the traditional Irish music art form while placing their special touch to the music. “We are here to serve this great music and bring out what we feel is the best nature in the tunes and songs we play.”

The Chicago Tribune wrote, “bohola plays 300-year-old jigs and reels as if they were trying to tear the house down. Keane’s rippling accordion playing rapid, swirling melodies, while Pat Broaders accents the rhythm with his staccato bouzouki strumming. Broaders also takes the spotlight to sing plaintive ballads.”

“We try to always play from the heart,” said Keane, “and bring to the audience the core and the spirit of what the music we play and sing is about.”

In concert, bohola perform music selections that weave in and out between tunes and songs that can continue for twenty minutes or so, ever evolving and flowing. They play tunes that range from hundred-year-old harp pieces, reels, jigs, slides, polkas and barndances to newly composed pieces in the traditional idiom. And the songs run the gamut from the ancient melodies of Ireland, to songs brought to North America by immigrants, to newly composed songs from here and abroad. All played with a freshness and subtlety of approach that is unique in Irish music today.

Open the Door for Three

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A road-tested, audience-approved, high-octane, laughing-out-loud trio of Irish musicians: Kieran O’Hare, Liz Knowles, and Pat Broaders.

They mine tune books, collections, and recordings to find old and new tunes and new and old songs. They add to those discoveries Liz’s compositions, harmonies and arrangements, Kieran’s encyclopedic knowledge of tunes and the uilleann piping tradition, and Pat’s rhythmic bedrock bouzouki and world-class singing.

Open the Door for Three is a trio that plays its music powerfully.

Though the trio is brand new, its members are mainstays of the Irish music scene. These three have distinguished themselves over the last two decades, having played with Riverdance, Cherish the Ladies, Secret Garden, Anúna, Celtic Legends, and The New York Pops, as well as mainstream pop-artists Don Henley, Paula Cole, Bonnie Raitt, and Josh Groban.

They have performed in venues around the world: on Broadway, at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, at L’Olympia and Palais de Congrès in Paris, Malaysian rainforest festivals, piping tionóil in Ireland, theatres from Shanghai to São Paulo, cruise ships in the Caribbean, and even a bullring in Mallorca.

Their debut release “Open the Door for Three” is a culmination of
years on the road together, comprised of unearthed tunes, new arrangements of great songs, homages to the musicians and bands they grew up listening to, and the signature sound of a trio of good friends playing great music together.

The Press Gang

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A bold new sound has emerged in New England’s traditional music scene: The Press Gang unites the talents of accordionist Christian Stevens, fiddler Alden Robinson, and guitarist Owen Marshall into a energetic, creative, musical partnership. With the addition of Hanz Araki on flute and vocals, the band delves into new territory with songs from the Irish and Scottish traditon, and new tunes from Hanz’s own vast repertoire.

The Press Gang

As American performers in the Irish tradition, the quartet blends their skill and fluency in Irish music with their curiosity and aptitude for other styles. The joy that these musicians take from playing with each other shines brightly, both in recordings and on the stage.