Rathkeltair features the bagpipe work of Neil Anderson (pictured) of St. Petersburg, Florida and Trevor Tanner of London, England.

The final touches are in place for the first Florida Keys Celtic Festival to be staged this weekend in Marathon — the beverages have been iced, chairs procured and tents rigged. The festival starts this afternoon (Friday, Jan. 10) and runs through Saturday, Jan. 11 as the last guest leaves Marathon Community Park sometime around 6 p.m.

It features top-name Celtic rock bands, traditional music makers, an English tearoom, vendors selling goodies like Welsh cookies and kids’ bow-and-arrow sets and even a dog herding demonstration. The show is being put on by a professional production company that specializes in this sort of thing, hired to do so by a local church.

“I’ve always wanted to do this! Ever since I moved here!” said Rev. Debra Maconaughey of St Columba Church with her typical enthusiasm. “Our patron saint is a Scottish monk who was kicked out of Scotland for his bad behavior. I’ve always thought that was an amusing name for our church because so many people come to the Keys for their second or tenth chances.”

The festival headliners is a group named Albannach. The group looks like a bunch of toughs, until they start to play. The music features a piper, drummers, vocalist and a bodhran musician and while the sound is rooted in tradition, it also has a surprising modern and upbeat twist.

“It’s very tribal. You start tapping your feet and before you know it, you’re standing up. It gets inside you,” said Marathon resident Sandy Burgoise . Also performing is Rathkeltair which sounds like Celtic rock while Marcille Wallace and Friends features the sweet tones of the hammer dulcimer.

“Neil, the bagpiper from Rathkeltair can play the bagpipe almost like it’s a guitar,” said Burgoise who has heard the band in New York. “And Marcille’s music is very soothing. We are going to have a taste of everything.”

Also planned is a reunion appearance of Celtic rock pioneers Clan na Gael that was 20 years in the making.

In addition, the two-day event features sheep-herding demonstrations from the well-trained herding canine breeds of Florida’s Asher-Dell Farm (see above). Celtic merchandise, food and beverage booths and children’s activities round out the weekend’s offerings.

Organizers have also planned a children’s “glen” with a miniature and safe version of Highland games.

Two-day admission tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the gate. Children age 12 and under are admitted free with a paid adult.



Friday, Jan. 10

4 to 8 p.m.

4 p.m.  Gates Open

5 p.m.  West of Galway

6 p.m.  Marcille Wallis & Friends

7 p.m.  Rathkeltair

8 p.m.  Albannach

9 p.m.  Candlelight Compline


Saturday, Jan. 11

8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

8 a.m. Gates Open

9 a.m. Marcille Wallis & Friends

10 a.m. Opening Ceremonies St. Andrew’s Pipe Band of Miami

10:30 a.m. West of Galway

11:30 a.m. Rathkeltair & Clan na Gael Reunion!

12:30 p.m.  Albannach

12:30 p.m.  Official FL State Haggis Hurling Championship

1:30 p.m.  St. Andrew’s Pipe Band of Miami

2 p.m.  West of Galway

3 p.m.  Marcille Wallis & Friends

4 p.m.  Rathkeltair

5 p.m.  Albannach

Sheep Dog Herding: 8 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m.

Highland Athletics: Ongoing throughout the morning

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