Ormond Beach Celtic Festival & Highland Games

storyThe skirl of bagpipes means that Clans and Celts are ready to gather once again for this weekend’s annual Ormond Beach Celtic Festival and Highland Games in Florida. Recently we spoke with co-organizer Julia Truilo about what attendees can expect.

What is your own ethnicity / heritage?
​I’m a true “mutt,” but I’ve got both English and Scottish ancestors.​

When and why did you get involved with the Festival?
​The Ormond Beach Celtic Festival is one of the annual events sponsored by Ormond Beach MainStreet, of which I am the Executive Director. This year will be my 4th OB Celtic Festival​.

What are your roles and responsibilities there?
​​We are the organizers of the event, which means we do a bit of everything from marketing and pr to garbage collection to running the vendor and clan areas.  Fortunately I have a great board member, Chuck Spano, who is a Celtic musician and who organizes all the music – this year we have 29 bands! Our Highland Games are organized by Robert Gourlay and are sanctioned by North America Scottish Games Athletics.

Why is it an important event for the community?
​One of Ormond Beach’s founders was a Scotsman – James Ormond. This festival celebrates an important aspect of our heritage and brings a lot of new people who have an interest in Celtic heritage to visit us​ in what is traditionally a beach vacation town.

Who traditionally attends the Festival?
​Our attendees are a mix of locals and regional visitors. Our Highland Games competitors and musicians come from all over the US and occasionally beyond.​

What can they expect this year?
These Highland Games feature feats of strength and are sanctioned by the North American Scottish Games Athletics organization More than 60 male and female athletes from around the region are expected to attend the Games and throw the caber, the hammer or the stone put. Senior competition goes on all day Saturday, while Sunday is reserved for beginners, demonstrations and classes. This year’s music headliner is famed Celtic harpist and storyteller, Patrick Ball, who returns to the Ormond Beach Celtic Festival after a 2-year absence. Ball is one of the premier Celtic harp players in the world and a captivating spoken word artist. In playing the ancient, legendary brass-strung harp of Ireland with its crystalline, bell-like voice, and in performing marvelous tales of wit and enchantment, he not only brings new life to two cherished traditions, but blends them in concert to create “a richly theatrical and hauntingly beautiful performance.” The Festival also includes two events sure to please food lovers of all ages – Celtic cooking classes featuring the “Celtic Chef”, Eric McBride and a Shortbread Competition for local bakers.  McBride, who has authored four cookbooks about Celtic cuisine, will offer demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday, each featuring a different recipe and culture. The Shortbread Competition takes place on Saturday morning with 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for both traditional and modern shortbreads.  The grand prize is a $200 gift basket from Kerrygold Dairy. In addition, there is a twice-daily parade by the Festival’s award-winning bagpipe band, Rosy O’Grady’s Highlanders, and a daily parade by all the attending Clans.  If your dog is an Irish setter, a Welsh corgi or a Scottie dog  – or you just want to dress your pup in plaid – be sure to visit the Festival on Sunday for the dog parade.  Dogs can be entered in the parade by making a contribution of dog food or supplies and there will be prizes for the best-dressed dog.

How has the event evolved through the years?
​Every year we have more people, more activities and more vendors​

How can Celtic culture be better preserved and promoted generally?
Celtic culture is like all other cultures passed down here in America. I would like to see more emphasis on the passing of heritage to a younger generation. Our part of Florida has a much older audience and one that is more attached to its heritage. I would love to see more teaching of cultural influence and heritage in our local schools.