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17th Annual Austin Celtic Festival

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Irish folk everywhere unite to celebrate their heritage with music food, games and dancing.

By Courtney Bell

After 23 total inches of rain during Halloween, the skies opened up to sunshine and bagpipes on Lady Bird Lake at Fiesta Gardens. It was positively perfect weather for the 17th year of the Austin Celtic Festival, as the Irish community celebrated their heritage with music, food, Highland Games and dancing.

The weekend-long festival spanned four stages, three fields and countless tents of artisan gifts and treats. It was a magical weekend of eclectic musical talents from near and far. A young trio from Dallas performed on the large stage while two veteran guitarists gave a workshop on advanced Irish guitar skills on the water. If you were a mere spectator or a pupil of instrument proportion, there was an activity for everyone. With free hair braiding and face painting for the kids, there were plenty of lions and tigers and bears frolicking in the grass, playing with their new swords and shields.

The Village Weavers, sponsored by The Hill Country Weavers, displayed their nimble skills to admirers on their way to and from the bake sale. One doe-eyed redhead watched longingly, noting, “If I could do that, I could make kilts for my whole family.” The child, no older than 8 years old, then discussed in detail her family lineage, colors and all. The pride resonated on the waters in Austin, even among the youngest in attendance.

Workshops included Gaelic language lessons with the Gaelic League of Austin, Advanced Irish Fiddle, scotch tasting with Macallan and Scottish Country dance lessons. Keeping traditions alive was what it was all about.

The Highland Games went on all weekend, with events like hammer throwing and log tossing. The show of extraordinary strength was as breathtaking as the livestock-herding demonstration going on in the next field.

Paul Brady, Irish music legend, closed both nights with his traditional Irish ballads. Traveling all the way from Northern Ireland, this singer-songwriter continues to push the boundaries of Irish contemporary music. Other musical performances included Paul McKenna Band, Horan Mcauley Trio, The Yanks and Hanz Araki Superband.


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