When you’re young, one thing on your bucket list involves announcing, coolly and indifferently (like you aren’t impressed with your own fabulousness) “Yeah, I’m with the band”. It never crosses your mind that, someday, the band you’re with will be a bagpipe band, and you’ll be dragging a laundry bag containing your husband’s gear (including the “whole nine yards” of his wool kilt. Oof.) You’ve bypassed “groupie” and run directly into “roadie”, you have mud on your tennis shoes, and you’re thinking, I bet Bon Jovi’s posse never had to remind him to bring his wool knee-highs..
Each year at the annual Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games, I get a ringside seat to lots of traditional bagpipe music, played by traditional bagpipe bands turned out in their best clan tartans. When I need a break from “Scotland the Brave” (and that moment does always come) I head over to the harp competition to experience the more Celtic Woman-esque side of Irish music. Then, there’s highland dancing performances for me to imitate later (badly) in the privacy of my own home, a British car show for my husband to wander through longingly, and a fiddling competition to remind me of why I was once so entranced by the violin. (Why I quit is another matter altogether.)
There’s a hurling competition, which is—as near as I can tell—a sport where baseball, hockey, and lacrosse are essentially placed into a blender together to see what happens. And, of course, there will be a good game (or two) of rugby, which is always pretty interesting. Particularly if it’s attended after a session at the whiskey-tasting table, which has a tendency to make everything more interesting. (Wristbands are available for those who planned to drink like an Irishman, all day long.) There’s a heavy-athletics competition, involving the throwing of things like blacksmith hammers, box weights, logs, and stones—really, anything historical people could get their hands on to chuck across a field.
I particularly look forward to the large vendor area, which stocks a huge and varied assortment of Celtic-themed gifts—things like Irish fisherman sweaters, handcrafted swords and daggers, claddagh and eternity-knot jewelry, tartan scarves, leather hand-tooled belts and silver buckles, and hand-carved pipes. Not to mention the classic tartan items—there are vendors who will help you outfit not only yourself in clan colors, but also your small children, your dining room table, and even your family pet. Literally.
The Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games return to the Richmond Raceway Complex for one late-October weekend each year. Check it out at http://vacelticfestival.com/
All photos courtesy of Katie Yarrow.