Event features parades, games and more.
The clans will be gathering at Rockefeller Gardens for the sixth annual Ormond Beach Celtic Festival and Highland Games, April 16 and 17.
Also expected will be about 8,000 visitors, attracted to the authentic music, Highland games, food, cooking demonstrations, vendors, and kids’ activities, according to Julia Truilo, executive director of Ormond Beach MainStreet, which presents the event.
Twenty-five bands and four Celtic dance troupes from the United States, Canada and the British Isles will appear throughout the weekend, providing continuous music. Bringing the musical acts to the event is the responsibility of Chuck Spano, of Ormond Beach, who Truilo credits with founding the festival.
A musician who plays Celtic music all over the world, Spano knows the genre well, and says this festival is the only major one in Florida that focuses on traditional Celtic music. While it’s an ancient music, it is still evolving with rock, fusion and even reggae.
“If you want to hear traditional Celtic music, you should come to Ormond Beach,” he said.
He has been playing the music since he was in his 20s.
“It’s a unique sound,” he said. “There are haunting melodies. The music itself changes in rhythm/time signature and the vocals can change pitch and go up and down. It keeps you on your toes.”
The lyrics often tell stories of the Celtic people and their history.
The best musicians
Spano will be playing with the bands he performs with throughout Central Florida, MacNamarra's Hurrah, Hard To Port and Backintyme.
Through his music, Spano has made many friends and contacts in Celtic music. He said they always have more applications from musicians than they have room for.
“They know the best musicians will be here,” he said. “If you want to get better, you hang around with the best.”
Visitors can also take part, as there will be a “session/workshop” tent all day.
When traveling in Europe, Spano makes a point to avoid tourists and the big cities to connect with the real culture.
“It’s fabulous,” he said. “The Highlands of Scotland and the rural areas of Ireland —
You get a whole different experience.”
Spano points out that there are more people with Scottish heritage in Canada and the U.S. than in Scotland today, and that’s one of the reasons the music remains popular. People are looking to their roots.
Spano’s wife, Pat, has also been involved with the festival through the years. A retired teacher, she has designed all of the posters except for the first one. Last year, she was asked to design the poster for the Florida Fall Festival.
Games and dog parades
Spano also points out the quality of the Highland Games, saying they have competitors this year traveling from Germany.
These games feature feats of strength and are sanctioned by the North American Scottish Games Athletics organization. Senior competition goes on all day Saturday, while Sunday is reserved for beginners, demonstrations and classes.
In addition to all the music on stage there is a twice-daily parade by the festival’s award-winning bagpipe band, Rosy O’Grady’s Highlanders, and a daily parade by all the attending Clans.
A dog parade is set for Sunday, and guests can enter their dogs with a contribution of dog food or supplies.