The festival is usually held in the spring, but due to COVID-19, it was postponed until late summer.
Kilts and umbrellas were standard attire on Saturday, Sept. 11 as the 10th-annual Ormond Beach Celtic Festival got started under a blanket of gray clouds. Skies released a steady downpour not too long after gates opened but that did not deter the revelers from enjoying traditional Celtic music and dancing, clan camaraderie and artisan wares.
Musician and festival founder Chuck Spano was disappointed when COVID-19 halted the event in 2020 and postponed it from its usual weekend in spring to September this year but was pleased with the turnout this weekend.
“Everyone was so happy to be back, we didn’t see anybody leave," Spano said. "And Sunday was hot but great.”
Ormond Beach Mainstreet volunteer Lisa Scheidleman Rademacher ran the kid zone underneath the Granada bridge. Children could jump right into the Celtic theme and create their own dragon or unicorn out of a pool noodle, or learn how to do some of the Scottish game events such as the caber or sheaf toss. A bounce house was setup overlooking the Halifax River and on Sunday, a water balloon battle ensued in the heat. In front of the Casements, little ones dressed up and competed to be named the Wee Lady or Chieftan of the festival.
Food and beverage vendors, along with the artisans’ tents, crowded the area in front of the Pavilion stage. The popularity of the festival has brought many of them back every year and has sold the idea to quite a few newbies.
James Leggett, owner of Side of the Road Jerk Chicken, is new to town. He moved here 11 days ago, and shortly after filling out an application to participate in the local farmer's market, he was asked to take part in the festival.
“I don’t even have all my stuff," Leggett said. "Not until the end of the month. So today, I’ve got chicken, and corn.”
The Highland Games was the only casualty of the event. The athletic director called the games due to lightning but the big field being used at Fortunato Park during the festival had already begun to flood. Dawn Schull, secretary and organizer for the Foundation for Scottish Athletics, Inc., agreed to judge a group of male athletes’ last weight for height throws which would enable them to complete their games. The equipment was moved to a side field by Rockefeller Gardens where master men, men’s As and Bs finished their competition. Athletes will convene at the Haunted Highland Games on Oct. 9 at the Ormond Beach Masonic Lodge.
The Parade of the Tartans which is steeped in ritualistic tradition and usually a chance for the clans to support one another, was led by Rosie O’Grady’s Pipe Band on Saturday. The band made their way through the vendor tents, leaving a trail of haunting bagpipe sounds in the air. As they approached the pavilion, the drums sounded a salute and came to an abrupt halt as City Commissioner Dwight Selby addressed the crowd and reminded them of the tremendous losses our country had suffered on 9/11.
“Twenty years ago today, the United States of America was brutally and savagely attacked by terrorists who despise everything America stands for,” he said. “It was the worse loss of life by a foreign enemy on U.S. soil and resulted in the death of 2,996 people. We stand here today to remember those innocent Americans whose lives were snuffed out and to honor those first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice by running into harms way to save lives. We shall never forget.”