Annual Celtic Festival entertains next weekend

 Visitors and locals will learn about this — and other sports, plus the lure of Celtic music — at the third annual Florida Keys Celtic Festival set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 9-10 at Marathon Community Park.

Haggis Hurling is where kilted and non-kilted competitors throw sausage shaped like a potato as far as possible. Because … well, because why not. Organizers expect this to be huge — only 20 will be allowed to compete and spots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration begins at 11 a.m. and closes by 12:30 p.m. or when the field fills.

Besides Hagis Hurling, the sheepdog herding demonstration will return in 2016 after a one-year absence.

“ I’m really happy about that,” said Reverend Canon Debra Andrew Maconaughey of St. Columba Episcopal Church, the title festival sponsor. She’s most excited, however, about the Irish dance troupe coming to the festival this year.

“They are going to set up in one of the pavilions and demonstrate some steps so visitors can observe, but also participate in. They will get to dance ceili, traditional Irish folk dancing,” she said. 

In addition, there will be a caber toss contest, heavy-weight-over-bar competition and something called a sheaf toss. All of the athletic competitions take place on Saturday beginning at 10:15 a.m. and ending at 4:30 p.m.

Many of the festival-goers come for the music. 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. Returning this year are The Screaming Orphans, as well. (Look for a complete music schedule in next week’s paper).

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. About two dozen vendors will be on hand, selling Celtic themed goods, and Marathon’s own Herbie’s Bar and Chowder House will be running the “pub” tent.

A two-day pass for adults is $20 or a single-day ticket is $12. Children age 12 and under are admitted free with a paid adult. Tickets are available in advance at

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 more than $50,000 a year and proceeds from this festival help pay for the program,” Reverend Debra Maconaughey of St Columba Church said. “Every single penny that we raise goes to support the Hammock House. This is a labor of love.”

The Florida Keys Celtic Festival is presented by Celtic Heritage Productions and Saint Columba Episcopal Church with support from The Monroe County Tourist Development Council. For additional information visit the Festival website at www.

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