There will be something for everyone to listen to, watch, participate in or indulge in during the seventh annual Maine Celtic Celebration on the waterfront Belfast Common and Steamboat Landing. This year’s family-oriented celebration of the rich Celtic heritage, culture and hospitality found along the coast of Maine runs Friday evening, July 19, through Sunday, July 21 and includes the city’s only fireworks display of the summer.

Portland and Portland, east and west

The Friday evening is a new event for the festival, an opening showcase concert presented on the Steamboat Landing Stage starting at 6 p.m. The Portland east meets Portland west concert offers traditional Celtic music from both coasts and a taste of what is to come over the weekend with performances by Hans Araki and the Mighty Few, The Press Gang, and Naia.

The West Coast’s Hans Araki and the Mighty Few combines Araki's mastery of the Irish flute with Kathryn Claire's charismatic fiddling and Cary Novotny's extraordinary guitar work. Maine’s The Press Gang brings back their new music in the Irish tradition. Naiad, also from Portland, is comprised of harpist Danielle Paus and flutist Nicole Rabata and features traditional Celtic music from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and Quebec along, with their own traditionally-inspired compositions.

Music performance, workshops

This year's musical lineup combines international and local performers, presenting both traditional and modern Celtic music and dancing. New to the Celebration this year are The Galley Rats, a Maine-based pub band specializing in Celtic/Canadian/Classic Rock music and heavily inspired by Great Big Sea, Stan Rogers and Gaelic Storm. The High Ground is a young local duet of fiddle and cello offering Scottish music in the tradition of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas. Velocipede brings together Julia Plumb on fiddle and foot percussion with Baron Collins-Hill on mandolin and guitar to present a smorgasbord of tunes from Scandinavia, Quebec, New England and Appalachia. New on the dance floor will be Vermont's premier Scottish dance troupe, Heather Morris' Celtic Company.

Returning favorites include Vishten, a trio performing new and traditional Acadian music; and Michael Black of Ireland's famous Black family. In addition to performing, several of the musicians will offer workshops at the Boathouse including bohdran (Irish frame drum) with master drum maker Albert Alfonso; Irish whistle and flute with Araki; uilleann pipes with Cillian Vallely, one of the best Irish pipers in the world; Irish fiddle with Nikki Engstrom of Stanley and Grimm; and step dancing with members of Vermont's Celtic Company. Jam sessions are likely to pop up to close each day of workshops.

Arts, crafts, food (cheese, no haggis)

Maine Celtic Celebration Craft vendors will offer items such as clothing, jewelry, books, toys, and Celtic gifts. Food vendors will provide traditional festival fare including barbecue, fish and chips, subs and sandwiches, beer, smoothies and ice cream.

Cheese plays a big role in the annual fest, thanks to the New World Cheese Roll Championships Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Cheese rolling enjoys a disputed history going back to at least the 1800s in the United Kingdom.  The New World Cheese Roll begins with a three-pound wheel of cheese being rolled down the slope on Belfast Common toward the bay. This year, the roll categories have been expanded to 10;  winners in each group get to keep a three-pound cheese wheel, sponsored and created by the State of Maine Cheese Company in Rockport.

Highland Heavy Games and other feats

The pleats meet the streets Saturday at 9 a.m., thanks to the Kilted Canter 5K Road Race sponsored by the Belfast Rotary Club, departing from Belfast Area High School and passing through historic Belfast neighborhoods. Registration is $20 via

Also at 9 a.m. Saturday, there will be a dog parade followed by a show and tell about Celtic dog breeds on the Steamboat Stage; to join the show, contact Steve Seekins at

Children can participate in a series of Not So Heavy Games throughout the two days of the Celebration. Those of all ages who want to learn to play the quintessential Celtic sport of rugby should head to Steamboat Landing Saturday at 5 p.m. for a session with rugby coach Bob Weggler.

The official Highland Heavy Games, sponsored by athenahealth, commence Sunday at 8:30 a.m. at Steamboat Landing. Still being held each year in Scotland and many other countries, the traditional Highland Heavy Games go all the way back to the 11th century and possibly even before that in the Scottish Highlands.

Fireworks Saturday night

Finally, Belfast's only fireworks display of the summer will commence over the harbor at about 9:20 PM on Saturday. In past years, the nonprofit Maine Celtic Celebration, Inc. has received a generous contribution from the City of Belfast as part of the annual budget, money MCC has earmarked for the fireworks display.

The Celebration is working towards financial independence from any City contribution “because we realize the money comes from our hardworking citizens and landowners, and with this year’s budget uncertainty due to the RSU 20 situation and concern over the State budget, we are doubling our efforts to move away from any city support in the near future,” said President Bob MacGregor.

The display is set for Saturday at 9:20 p.m. and contributions are still being collected for ongoing fireworks fund campaign; tax-deductible donations may be sent to Maine Celtic Celebration, Inc., P.O. Box 401, Belfast, ME 04915.

What a bargain

The entire weekend of music, games, food, and fun is the result of an all-volunteer work of the Maine Celtic Celebration Committee. It takes all year and almost $50,000 to present the Celebration … and it takes the generous support of sponsors, donors and those who attend. Donation tables will be set up at the major entrance points to the Celebration site; the suggested donation of $10 per day will help ensure the future of this popular summer event. For a complete schedule of events, visit

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or