Celtic culture and entertainment draw crowds to Saline festival
Soon after the gates opened at today's 16th Annual Saline Celtic Festival at Mill Pond Park, runners in the new 5K race were crossing the finish line to the unmistakable sound of bagpipe music.
"We've been coming to the Saline Celtic Festival since it began," said Tom Todd, a Saline resident and member of the Cabar Feidh pipes and drums band. "This is the only true Celtic festival in Michigan because it honors the Welsh, Irish and Scottish Celts."
The event started as a celebration of Saline's relationship with its sister city Brecon, Wales, but it also embraces the Celtic traditions of Ireland and Scotland.
Early arrivers fortified themselves with an Irish breakfast of scrambled eggs, banger sausages, bread pudding and brown soda bread. Soon after, the Highland Dance Competition got under way and participants of varying ages danced to bagpipe music.
"I've been doing Highland dancing for 13 years," said competitor Ashley Carlomusto, 23, who came from Livonia. She was dressed in a bright plaid skirt that was hand-woven in Scotland, as well as argyle socks, and Highland dance shoes called ghilles. "I started out doing ballet, but this is more fun and good cardio exercise."
The Birds of Prey exhibit represents hundreds of years of history for the Celts, who trained various species of birds that were on hand today, such as falcons, hawks and owls, to hunt for their food.
"They could train a bird to catch three rabbits a day," said Karen Young, who works with Birds of Prey, a Saline-based group that offers outreach programming. "Anything that brought food to the table was important."
The Society for Creative Anachronism had plenty of participants dressed in period costumes both reenacting and recreating everything from armored combat to fiber arts like weaving and spinning.
In the textile arts tent, Carol Knox, who's part of the Spinner's Flock in Chelsea, was spinning sheep's wool into yarn. Frances Acar, a native of the isle of Barra, in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, was busy weaving. She now lives in Kent, Ohio but makes a point of coming to the Saline Celtic Festival every year.
"This festival helps me retain my Scottish heritage," she said. "It's an annual reunion for so many of us."
Acar traces her lineage to Clan Campbell and Clan MacDonald, both represented at today's festival.
"They were feuding clans, but now we're all mixed and very civilized," she added with a smile.
In the afternoon, the Highland Games got under way. They're a test of strength and athleticism that date back to 11th century Scotland, when they determined who would be leaders in battle. There will also be a variety of Celtic music performed until the festival ends at 11 p.m. tonight. For a schedule of activities, go to Salineceltic.org.
Last year the Celtic Festival made a $3,600 profit, and it made $19,700 in 2009, though it lost money during a few prior years. The Saline City Council will evaluate the future of the festival when all the expenses and revenues for this year are calculated in October.
Lisa Carolin is a freelance journalist for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at email@example.com.