In Texas, we have festivals that honor everything imaginable, from mosquitoes and hot sauce to Bob Marley. And if we're honest, we know it's basically an excuse to party, drink beer and escape summer reruns. But back in the day (oooold days, that is), festivals took on a much more significant meaning. Such is the case with the Celtic Harvest Festival at Garden in the Heights. It's based on the ancient festival of Ireland, Scotland and Wales called Lughnassadh -- a day set aside to celebrate the first harvest of the year, traditionally near the beginning of August.
"We see it as a way to present Celtic culture, art, music, food and crafts in a traditional way, but one that's also a lot of fun," says Michael Martin, Garden in the Heights manager and a student of the lore. He argues that any modern festival can trace its roots to ones like these, where locals literally celebrated having enough food to last them through the winter season.
Also a part of the festival were the Tailltean Games, more commonly known today as the Scottish Highland Games. The collection of testosterone-fueled competitions for manly men included throwing spear, ax and knife; tossing caber, stone and sheaf (maybe they meant "sheep"); and wrestling and racing. All will also be part of the Houston festival during the evening, and anyone can test his muscle for a $3 registration fee. The grand winner of the contests (in addition to probably getting all the wenches he wants), will receive an actual jewel-encrusted sword. There are also divisions for children.
Other attractions will include Celtic crafts for sale, a historic equestrian exhibition, traditional food such as shepherd's pie, turkey legs and colcannon (a mashed potato-and-kale mixture) and, of course, pints of good, cold brew. There will also be lots of Celtic music from the bands Poor Clares, Incarnation and Godfrey's Rangers, which Martin knows will be a big attraction. "Celtic music has been rediscovered in recent years," he says. "It's very lively and really the root of American folk music. People have also discovered the dancing through things like Riverdance, and the Irish hard-shoe dancing really marks the origin of tap dancing."
So grab your lad or lass and head on down to the Celtic Festival. But leave your old Larry Bird jersey at home. It's not that kind of Celtic gathering.
-- Bob Ruggiero
The Celtic Harvest Festival will be held Sunday, August 9, from noon10ish at Garden in the Heights, 3926 Feagan. 880-1065 or www.garden-heights.com. Admission is $5.