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Feeling festive

Mayville celebrates with annual Celtic Festival

September 8, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

Bagpipes. Cabers. Clans. Kilts. No, it wasn't Scotland. It was the 11th Annual Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival and "Gathering of the Clans" in Mayville on Aug. 26 and 27.

Attendance was strong throughout the event as people came to enjoy the 10 pipe bands and nine Celtic bands; to watch heavy athlete competitions; or simply to peruse Celtic crafts and foods. The event was organized and presented by the 96th Highlanders Pipes and Drums band of Jamestown.

"This is a great festival," said vendor Dave Thunberg of Thunberg Woodworking of Jamestown, NY. "The atmosphere is super." Thunberg and his son create inlaid wooden boxes, which they have been selling at the festival for five years.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
One of 10 pipe bands performs before visitors at the Celtic Festival and Gathering of the Clans.

Perhaps the most exciting facet of the festival was the opportunity it gave for people of Celtic descent to explore their roots. More than 25 clans were on hand with genealogical information about each clan and its septs. A sept is a subgroup within a large clan.

Shawn Lewis of Harborcreek, PA always knew that his ancestors came from an island off the coast of Scotland. At the festival, he learned that he belongs to a sept of Clan MacLeod. The MacLeods of the Lewes (Lewis) lived in the northwestern isles off of Scotland and were nearly exterminated by a rival clan, before being assisted by other MacLeod Clans

"It's amazing to think that if my clan had been wiped out, I wouldn't be here today. This makes history come alive in a real way," Lewis said.

A Findley Lake resident who asked not to be named discovered that he belongs to a sept of Clan Douglas. "I've watched Brave heart dozens of times, but I was astounded to learn that my ancestor, William Douglas, was the first lord to join William Wallace in his revolt against English rule," he said.

The clan representatives who come to set up tents at the fair seem to enjoy the festival as much as the visitors.

Daneen Muehlbauer, Terry Smith, and their 3 sisters were at the festival for their third year, representing Clan Douglas. Along with their uncle, who refers to himself as Sir James Douglas, after his ancestor who was a Scottish knight and feudal lord, all members of the family are keenly interested in their heritage.

Smith and Muehlbauer said the family attended a Celtic Fest in Alcott before finally deciding to become clan promoters. "We started at Alcott and we got Douglas kilts and we evolved from there," said Muehlbauer, who is now the New York State regent for Clan Douglas.

Smith added that their mother got all five of her daughters interested in their heritage. "You don't really know who you are until you know where you come from," she said.

More than 25 heavy athletes provided a rare experience of Celtic sport competitions. The caber toss is an event in which the athlete attempts to throw and flip a log which weighs 150 pounds. This display of strength and endurance attracted many spectators who watched competitors balance a 20-foot log in their hands, run forward, and then attempt to flip the log end over end.

The athletes in the weight throw competition must throw a ball weighing nearly 30 pounds, affixed to a chain and handle, with one hand. Onlookers then watch as the judges measure the distance that the ball has been thrown.

Throughout the day, the air resonated with the music of 10 pipe bands from as far away as Cleveland, Buffalo, and Thorold, Ontario. Visitors could also enjoy the music of nine Celtic bands in three different locations.

Many authentic craft and food vendors were on hand. William and Mary Tifft of Cato, NY have operated Rencraft Celtic and Renaissance Wares for 25 years and have attended the Jamestown Regional Celtic Festival for the last five years.

"We try to get as much authentic material as we can," said Tifft. "I have had a passion for Celtic weaponry since I was 12 years old."

Carl Vitale of Erie, PA, who was perusing Tifft's goods, said he is an adopted member of Clan Rowan and loves everything about the festival. "I love the original food that you can't get elsewhere, and the traditional music, pretty much the whole thing," he said.



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