Kilts in the Keys is this weekend - A group of people riding on the back of a boat - Florida Keys
Ready for a dose of the Irish? The Kilts in the Keys party this weekend supports the return of The Police Pipe & Drum Corps of Florida for the Florida Keys Celtic Festival in January. WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

The annual Kilts in the Keys party marks the halfway point to the seventh annual Florida Keys Celtic Festival. Set for Sunday, Aug. 4, the party supports the planning efforts of the festival that occurs in early January. The party begins at 5 p.m. at Herbie’s Bar and Chowder House in Marathon. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing all of our volunteers and families,” said Rev. Deborah McConaughey of St. Columba Church. The church hosts both events to raise funds for its Hammock House, which provides free after school care and summer camps for local children. “I’m definitely looking forward to working with Peter and Shirley of Herbie’s and their whole staff. It’s a great partnership and friendship and a chance to spend time with friends.”

Peter Demaras said his involvement with Kilts in the Keys over the past four years is one of civic pride. 

“Hammock House does so much for our local kids who live at, or below, the poverty level,” Demaras said. “We have to help. It’s our responsibility as members of the community. We help our future by positively impact the kids’ present.”

As usual, West of Galway will provide the musical entertainment with crowd pleasers like “Waltzing Matilda” and “Back Home in Derry.” (McConaughey says she likes the band because the lead singer, Bernie, usually grants her a turn at the mic!) There will be food, drink, games, raffle baskets and a children’s bounce house. 

Proceeds from the Kilts in the Keys party power the Florida Keys Celtic Festival. Never content to rest on their laurels, organizers are planning bigger and better things for the 2020 festival. New this year: the Florida Keys very own tartan. 

Designer Ganine Derleth chose the colors from a photo of friends she snapped at Sombrero Beach — blues in every hue, green and sand white.

“This is going to be great for the Keys. Everyone can get a shawl or something,” she said. “We might just be creating the biggest clan in the world — the Florida Keys Clan.”

St. Columba is famous for its generous outreach — after school care, storm recovery, affordable housing, etc. The proceeds from the annual festival feed the habit.

“People are counting on us,” said McConaughey. “As a church, we are extremely enthusiastic people who like to have fun. It comes from our strong belief that we are all children of God and it’s our role on earth to love God and love your neighbor.”  

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