By Ashley Rader
Lords and ladies, knights and dancers will be taking over Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park this weekend when the annual Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival gets under way.
The festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8 and 9, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. A concert will be held Saturday from 6 p.m. until midnight.
Sponsored by the Upper East Tennessee Celtic Society, The Celtic Festival will feature a wide variety of live music, weapons demonstrations, dancing, clans, vendors, competitions and workshops. The Lords of Chivalry jousters will be returning for the second year.
The festival started as a one-day event in Jonesborough in 1996. Organizers with the East Tennessee Celtic Society wanted to expand to a two-day event and moved to Sycamore Shoals in 2000 to accommodate the extra day. Sycamore Shoals employee Johnnie Pilk said the festival is one of the larger events held at the park and draws between 1,200 and 1,500 people through the weekend.
“There is always a good turnout for the Celtic Festival,” Pilk said. “It is about the same as our other big events, the Native American Festival and the 18th century siege. There is always a large crowd that is interested in the events.”
The jousters will be returning for the second year. Pilk noted this was a huge attraction during last year’s festival when they participated for the first time. The jousting will be full-contact heavy armor jousting on Clydesdale horses. The horse plus the rider in full armor weigh almost 3,000 pounds. The Lords of Chivalry will perform Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day.
Activities during the festival will be centered in four main areas — the indoor theater, the outdoor theater, the amphitheater and the midway pavilion.
On Saturday, the festival will begin with an opening ceremony at 10 a.m. in the outdoor theater. On Sunday, the festival will begin with a blessing of the tartans at 10 a.m. Other activities in the outdoor theater Saturday and Sunday will be jousting from 11 a.m. until noon; the Celtic rock band Rathkeltair will perform from 12-12:45 p.m. and the band Maidens IV will perform from 1-1:45 p.m. Jousting will be held from 2-3 p.m. on the outdoor field and dancing will be held from 2-3 p.m. on the outdoor stage. The band Sigean will perform from 3-3:45 p.m. On Saturday an adult costume contest will be from 4-4:45 p.m. and on Sunday it will be a children’s costume contest at the same time.
On Saturday and Sunday in the indoor theater, Sandra Parker will perform from 11 a.m. until noon; storytelling will be held from noon until 12:45 p.m. Irish dancers will perform from 1-2 p.m. and Martha Egan will have pennywhistle lessons from 4:15-5 p.m. On Saturday, author Jim Johnston will speak from 2-2:45 p.m., and the Prettiest Legs in a Kilt competition will be held from 3-4 p.m. On Sunday, there will be special music presentations from 2-4 p.m.
In the midway pavilion on Saturday and Sunday, there will be dog sheep herding from 12:30-1:30 p.m.; trebuchet/catapult demonstration from 1:30-2:30 p.m. and dog sheep herding again from 3:30-4:30 p.m. In the midway pavilion will be weapons demonstrations, the East Tennessee State University Shakespearean Ensemble and troubadours/town criers.
The Saturday night concert will include the bands Sigean, Maidens IV, Chanty Wrasslers and Rathkeltair.
In addition to the planned activities, a wide variety of vendors will be on site with items including Celtic costumes, jewelry and decorative items and food.
Admission to the festival is $6 per day or $20 for the weekend. There is a separate Saturday night concert for $12. The concert is included in the weekend pass. People who bring a canned food item for the Second Harvest Food Bank will receive a $1 discount on admission. Children under 11 will be admitted free.