The Celts are invading the Keys when lads and lassies from all over come to Marathon on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 9-10 for the second annual Florida Keys Celtic Festival.

Festivalgoers will enjoy thundering Scottish rock, and a bit of traditional music too, at the park’s main stage amphitheater. Several outstanding Celtic bands are scheduled to return to the festival including Scottish headliner Albannach, international super group Rathkeltair, West of Galway and the St. Andrews Pipe Band of Miami. New this year are The Screaming Orphans.

“I told our producer the only way I would volunteer to coordinate this festival the second year is if he could book The Screaming Orphans,” said Bill Lorimer. “My wife and I heard them at the Irish Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota and they wowed the crowd. They are probably the most well known Irish band in the world right now.”

In addition to the music, there will also be food (visit the tea tent for some scones and a ‘cuppa’) and beverages (check out the Scottish lager, Tennent’s). Guests can sip and stroll as they visit with three dozens vendors and exhibitors ranging from The Celtic Bag Company to the Taoist Tai Chi Society of the Florida Keys.

Festival goers will also have plenty to see. This year the festival is a sanctioned Highland Games event for female competitors. Men, too, are expected to toss the “caber” — telephone pole! — as well as engage in the stone put and Scottish hammer throw.

The Florida Keys Celtic Festival is a family friendly event featuring a children’s glen for the wee ones to play. Keys creatures are also scheduled to be at the festival this year, including residents of The Florida Keys Turtle Hospital, the new Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, the local animal shelter and The Florida Keys Sheriff’s Animal Farm. Festival organizers have hear rumors that the Conchness Monster, a distant cousin to the mythical Nessie of Scotland’s Loch Ness, may make an appearance for some fun photo ops.

Organizers have lowered the admission price for locals after feedback from the inaugural event. A two-day pass for adults is $22 or just $12 for Friday night only and $17 for Saturday. Children age 12 and under are admitted free with a paid adult.

Festival proceeds benefit Hammock House Youth Programs providing at-risk youth from the Middle Keys with a free, healthy environment where they can thrive emotionally, artistically, intellectually and spiritually. St. Columba Episcopal purchased property next door to the church in 2010 to develop a place to provide summer and after-school programming for children and youth.

“The Hammock House budget is $50,000 a year and proceeds from this festival will help alleviate some of the financial stress we’ve experienced over the past few years,” Reverend Debra Maconaughey of St Columba Church said.

The Florida Keys Celtic Festival is presented by Celtic Heritage Productions of Port Charlotte, Florida and Saint Columba Episcopal Church with support from The Monroe County Tourist Development Council. For additional information visit the Festival website at or call St Columba Church at 305-743-6412.


  • The Screaming Orphans

Screaming Orphans is a pop/Celtic rock band from Donegal, Ireland. The band consists of the four Diver sisters (Joan, Angela, Gràinne and Marie Thérèse) and they play their own melodic pop songs as well as traditional Irish songs. They have released eight albums and two EP’s. The band has toured the United States and Europe since mid-1990s. In 1997, the band played as Sinéad O’Connor‘s opening band and her back-up singers on her Gospel Oak Tour across Europe, America and Canada. They have also toured with Baaba Maal and recorded with the Afro Celt Sound System and contributed backing vocals on the Peter Gabriel track “When You’re Falling.”



  • According to festival organizer Bill Lorimer, the Cameron’s British Foods of Cape Coral, Florida, serves some of the best “Americanized” haggis to be had on this side of the Atlantic. Haggis is a Scottish dish consisting of a sheep’s or calf’s offal mixed with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning and boiled in a bag, traditionally one made from the animal’s stomach. In addition to the traditional Celtic dishes, the festival will also feature seafood from Craig’s Restaurant in the Upper Keys and also the famous hot dogs and hamburgers from the crew at Centennial Bank.


  • Highland Games

Although the tests of skill and strength likely date back to the 11th century, modern day Highland Games are an invention of the Victorian Era. Events include the caber toss, probably the most well-recognized, plus the stone put, hammer throw, weight over the bar, sheaf toss (a bag of straw tossed vertically over a ball with a pitchfork), and the Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Lazy Stick’) which is a trial of strength performed by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Thus seated, they hold a stick between their hands and try to raise one another off the ground.



3 p.m. Gates open

5 p.m. West of Galway

6 p.m. The Screaming Orphans

7 p.m. Rathkeltair

8 p.m. Albannach

9 p.m. Candlelight Compline worship service


9 a.m. Gates open

10 a.m. Opening ceremonies/St. Andrew’s Pipe Band

10:30 a.m. The Screaming Orphans

11:30 a.m.a Rathkeltair

12:30 p.m. Albannach

1:30 p.m. St. Andrew’s Pipe Band

2 p.m. West of Galway

3 p.m. The Screaming Orphans

4 p.m. Rathkeltair

5 p.m. Albannach

6 p.m. West of Galway

7 p.m. The Screaming Orphans

8:30 p.m. Rathkeltair and Albannach

Ongoing: Highland athletics

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