HUNTER MOUNTAIN CELTIC FESTIVAL

by Paul Maraschiello

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I decided to visit Hunter Mountain for the Celtic Festival. One of my favorite Celtic bands, IONA was playing at this well-established festival. I figured with Hunter's close proximity to New York City and Albany, there would be a few Irishmen and Scotsmen at the event that I could get drunk with. I was not disappointed. The festival was very well attended, there were thousands of people drinking beer and enjoying the festivities.



There were 50 bagpipe bands that competed for honors. The entertainment featured IONA (Barbara Ryan, Bernard Argent, Bob Mitchell, Nick Smiley and dancer Susan Walmsley) a really talented Celtic folk group who and amazed the crowd with song and dance. Seamus Kennedy an Irish folksinger and comedian held court in another tent and sang and amused the crowd with his stories. The group Kilbrannan play traditional Irish tunes and Tempest add a rock sound to Irish jigs and reels, Scottish ballads, and their own compositions. Others on the bill were Tim Quinn, The Brigadoons, Gery Finlay and the Cara Band, The Kerry Boys, Pat Kane and West O'Clare and performances by the Farrrel School of Irish Dance.



In addition to the pipe band competition, there was a caber toss where husky men compete by tossing a telephone pole. There was a sheep-herding contest that demonstrated the intelligence and ability of some fine border collies and other dogs.



I arrived early. The weather forecast had been a bit "iffy" but it turned out to be a great day. I had never been to Hunter before and was looking forward to seeing the mountain and enjoying the festival. I got all decked out in my 18trh Century Scottish attire. Because my mother was a Ferguson, born in Scotland, I have a Ferguson tartan kilt. I like to tell people that I'm Fergie's cousin Paul. I really love to get all dresses up in my authentic heraldic attire. There is just something about strapping on my basket-hilted Claymore that gets to me. Over the years, I have added to my outfit and now I make a really grand sight. Even when there are a lot of guys running around in kilts, I am photographed often. This event was no exception. I was photographed and interviewed by a reporter from the Hudson Valley Newspapers. Look for me in the funny papers.





It was a really good day for a festival. The weather was warm but not too warm for a kilt. There were three tented venues where the entertainers performed, in addition to the outdoor area where the pipe bands competed. I spent the day wandering from tent to tent, listening to the entertainers inside and outside. The air was filled with the sound of bagpipes.



My friends IONA put on a great show. They played music from all the Celtic lands and Barbara even sang one song in Gallic. They played for an hour and a half non-stop and thrilled the crowd. When Susan did the highland fling, Irish step dance or hornpipe the audience was given a demonstration of some really high stepping.



I was also familiar with Seamus Kennedy. For years, he played at a pub I frequent in Alexandria, Virginia. He is a really funny man who has entertained audiences all over America with his irreverent humor and excellent voice. Killbrannan played a lot of traditional drinking songs and it was fun to sing along with the band. I got to hear Tim Quinn's act and he was also very funny.



There were a number of vendors who sold Celtic goods and some more generic items, as well. You could buy swords, kilts, and dresses fit for the lady of the castle. There were T shirts, and Irish knits. Celtic jewelry was to be found, along with other collectibles.



The food vendors were located across from the main tent that sold beer. I found that the roast beef sandwiches were done to perfection on a spit. I also dined on a chicken pita sandwich that was very good.



The festival was well done and a lot of fun. The event culminated with 50 massed pipe bands marching down the mountain. It was a sight and sound to behold. So, if you are in the mood for Celtic music and you will be in New York next August, put the Hunter Mt. Celtic Festival on your list. Grab your bagpipes or a bonnie lassie and visit this event. There will be plenty of Irish pub tunes to sing along with and PLENTY of beer.



Hunter Mt. has events scheduled every weekend, so head on up and enjoy the festivities and don't forget to drop by for a little skiing. I know that I will.

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