Pipers, clans and even the occasional fairy converged in the shade of Casey Jones Park for two full days of celebrations honoring Celtic heritage and tradition at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival on July 16 and 17.
Re-enactors treated guests to demonstrations of Viking culture from the early eighth and ninth centuries, traditional Scottish culture beginning with the risings of the 17th and 18th centuries, along with an assortment of fighting demonstrations by Castle Wall Productions and Renaissance Scots.
Alana Wolner, president of the Elizabeth Celtic Festival board of directors, said many of the groups who offer the demonstrations and re-enactments have a long-standing tradition in Elizabeth.
“Many of these groups have been coming here for years,” she said. “They are like family.”
Celtic competitions included Heavy Scottish Athletics, where both men and women compete in nine events, which involve throwing various heavy objects, most notably 19-foot tree trunks (caber toss) weighing up to 175 pounds.
The Highland Dance drew competitors from around Colorado and surrounding states. Novice level dancer Cady Davis from Oklahoma City, breathlessly said dancing in the thinner, Colorado air was definitely a challenge.
Despite the 5,000-foot altitude difference, Davis managed to sweep the three dances at her level and take home first place. The win was her fifth as a novice, and she needs to place in one more competition to advance to the intermediate level.
Both the Scots and the Irish are known for their spirit, and no Celtic festival would be complete without sampling a bit of what each has to offer. A whiskey tasting in the Heritage Pavilion on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons offered attendees (21 and over) an opportunity to learn about and taste the differences between Scotch, Irish whiskey, and American whiskey.
Whiskey expert Chelsea Houser explained how most American whiskies are distilled by a single distillery and often not by craft labels. Irish whiskies, on the other hand, are required to be distilled on the Emerald Isle, and even tighter regulations govern spirits branded as Scotch.
The offering of American whiskey at the festival was provided by the Steward’s Solera, a Colorado distilled and aged bourbon. The company is in the process of setting up a cordial distillery and opening a tasting room in Elizabeth, which it hopes to open in the fall.
The Elizabeth Celtic Festival began in 1993 and was originally held in conjunction with the Elbert County Fair. Beginning in 1995, organizers offered the festival as a standalone event in Kiowa for 11 years, and in 2006 moved the festival to the trees of Casey Jones Park in Elizabeth.