HAMILTON - The sixth annual Bitterroot Celtic Games and Gathering has a full and festive lineup, including the gathering of the clans, athletic contests, mead and scotch tastings, music, folk dancers, food, fun and history at the Daly Mansion this Saturday and Sunday, August 15 and 16.
Cheryl Tenold is president of the Bitterroot Celtic Society, organizers and hosts of the event.
“Ours is a true Celtic festival,” said Tenold. “We have highland games with all of the different athletic events and the clans. We are more than just a music festival. It’s a family friendly event, with fun for all ages each day. Every year we’re adding new things and we’re making it new, so every year you can come back and it is a fresh experience. This year, we’ve added an Irish whiskey tasting and an advanced Scotch tasting, in addition to our regular Scotch and mead tastings.”
The weekend begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with activities that continue all weekend: athletics, Daly Mansion tours, a children’s activity area, Irish wolfhounds walking the grounds on leashes, vendors of food and Celtic wares, concessions, a kilt raffle (a $500 value of a custom-designed kilt to your measurements and tartan), and the Bitterroot Celtic Society educational booth open for historical lessons.
“Learn the heritage of the valley,” said Tenold. “It was first settled by Celtic people, Marcus Daly was Irish, the first fur traders were Scottish – there’s lots of rich heritage in the valley. Eliot McFarland will talk about culture, and visitors will be taught how to make haggis.”
At 9:30 a.m., the highland dance competition begins; at 10 a.m. is the Montana Reel & Strathspey Society and the solo pipe and drum competitions begin; at 11 a.m., the mead tasting begins, with a $10 fee.
“There will be highland games, which means men and women in kilts throwing heavy stuff,” said Tenold. “They throw telephone poles, weight over bars, stone put, weight for distance, caber toss, sheaf toss and more.
“The Celtic Festival is a gathering of the clans – and there are 19 clans registered this year. People can come find who they are related to, what their tartan is, what their sept is, and if they want they can participate in a clan-versus-clan tug-of-war on Sunday.”
At 1 p.m., the opening ceremonies will feature the grand entry of clans, with their flags, bands, color guard and athletes. Other highlights of the afternoon include the introduction of Clans Lament, Celtic Martins, 43 Missoula Irish Dancers, Scotch tasting, $30, Brother, Biscgelia Family / Whispering Roses, Irish Whiskey Tasting, 35 Kalispell Irish Dancers and Montana Reel & Strathspey Society.
At 7 p.m., there is free admission to the Ceilidh – a traditional social gathering.
“It is like an open mic night party – sing, read a poem, whatever they like,” said Tenold. “There will be a signup ahead of time. We hope everyone will join in. Someone will do traditional-called contra dancing and traditional Celtic folk dances. It is all cool entertainment with a new twist. Brother is a very unique duo from Portland, Oregon, with a rock and roll aspect that includes a didgeridoo and bagpipe. They were a hit with all ages. They will play at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Emily Ann Thompson and the Celtic Martins is a family of seven that comes from the eastern United States, and can fiddle and dance at the same time.
“A local favorite is Malarkey, and from Bozeman the Montana Reel and Strathspey Society.”
On Sunday, the activities, music and dancing will continue. At 9 a.m., there is a Kirkan O’ the Tartan, a traditional non-denominational church service.
At 11:30 a.m., there is a luncheon for the Honored Clan Gregor with two honored chieftains, Steve “Gus” Gustaston and Johni Steinke.
“Their clan is recognized and we choose chieftains with a community connection to Montana, active involvement in the Bitterroot Valley, and a clan that comes to our event,” said Tenold.
At 1 p.m., will be a grand parade of clans and bands. The day also has a tug-of-war between the clans, athletic demonstrations, highland dance demonstrations, music, Emily Ann Thompson, Scotch tasting, Malarkey and Bitterroot Cloggers. The day wraps up at 4:45 p.m.
There is limited parking for $10 at the Daly Mansion, but parking also is available at Hamilton High School, 327 Fairgrounds Road, and they have three shuttle buses to bring passengers right to the entrance gate.
Tenold recommends the shuttle bus service, which runs every 10 to 15 minutes.
“The highway is too dangerous to park on and the dusty driveway is very long,” she said.
The Daly Mansion is located at 251 Eastside Highway. For exact times and more details, see their webpage, http://bitterrootscottishirishfestival.org.
“It’s a very busy festival,” said Tenold. “Plus it’s good for the community. Our estimation is that we expect to bring approximately a quarter of a million dollars into the community this weekend.”
Next year’s Bitterroot Celtic Games & Gathering will be August 21 and 22.