It is unlikely that in the Deep Southern state of Mississippi, you would find a culturally diverse atmosphere that draws hundreds of people to come visit in one general location.
Within this location is a wellspring of tradition that ignites the dream world traveler inside of you. You are probably asking yourself, what is this atmosphere that I am referring to, and that my friends is none other than the Celtic Fest.
A tradition that has been around since 1992, this festival was founded and directed by Don Penzin who convinced the finest musicians to come to Jackson for this historic event.
“One of the most gratifying things for me as the founder is walking into a local grocery store, wearing a Celtic Fest t-shirt and someone in the store will come up to me and say, ‘Celtic Fest! I go every year; you should make sure you go this year!’
“For 22 years I have seen this festival grow and become a tradition in Mississippi and it is wonderful to see how people in the local community have made it their own,” Penzin said.
Celtic Fest is an event like none other because it offers activities for all ages and at the same time gives them the opportunity to experience Irish culture. Simon Babba, a grad student at Mississippi College, said he looks forward to this festival every year.
“This is a wonderful weekend to kick off the school year with a fun cultural party that caters to all personalities,” Babba said.
Throughout the weekend the Celtic Fest offers Irish plays, Celtic bands, booths of traditional Irish merchandise, historic custom games and their crowning event, the Ceili Mor. The historic custom games, which are better known as the Highland Games, are events that are held throughout the year in Scotland and other countries.
They are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture and heritage, especially that of the Scottish Highlands. The Ceili Mor is the most popular event of the whole weekend because it gives people the chance to learn Celtic dances from an actual Irish instructor.
“Who wouldn’t love to dance the Irish jig with your best friends with a guy who is teaching you in an Irish accent,” Rachel Mills, a senior at Mississippi College said.
Some of New York’s top Irish musicians headlined the festival this year. Over 45 other talented music and dance groups packed the eight stages throughout the weekend, travelling to Mississippi from other states and some from over-seas.
From Donie Carroll from Cork City, Ireland to dance master Éamonn de Cógáin who leads the Ceili Mor on Saturday nights, the weekend is full of talented musicians from across the pond.
“It’s such a cool experience to be able to listen and enjoy music from different cultures and see the differences in their music taste and our own here in America,” Emilio DeSilva, a junior from Bellhaven said.
On Sunday morning, CelticFest musicians gathered together to perform Celtic sacred music during a non-denominational church service.
On a small scale, this weekend truly captured the Celtic heritage and made it possible for Mississippians to get a taste of the “Luck of the Irish.” I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend and if you went, you understand where I am coming from and should agree with me without hesitation.
If you didn’t make it out this weekend, then I highly encourage you to go to your 2014 calendar, and make sure your weekends in September are empty so you may have the pleasure of experiencing the deep rich Irish heritage we like to call, Celtic Fest.
– Ashley Dillard, Assistant Editor