Scottish Celtic Heritage Festival

pamdThe quiet community of Parkersburg, West Virginia (pop 31,492) is about to get a whole lot louder today, as the town hosts its annual Scottish Celtic Heritage Festival. Event coordinator Pam Brust gives us the details.

What is your own ethnic heritage/background?
My ancestors were Scottish, Irish, Welsh and English, many of whom came to America in its early years. I have done extensive genealogy research on my own family history and one of my passions is helping others find their roots.

How, when and why did you get involved with the event?
I first became aware of Tartan Day after a visit to New York City. As part of their observance, they had Scottish patriot William Wallace’s sword on display in a heavily guarded exhibit at Grand Central Station, what an impressive site. I felt overwhelmed just having the opportunity to see his sword, and found out later it was reportedly the first time the sword had ever been off Scottish soil. I came back to the Mid-Ohio Valley and started our own Tartan Day here. After many growing pains and several venue changes, including moving from Ohio to West Virginia, the name was changed to the Scottish & Celtic Heritage Festival, widening our approach, trying to reach more of the Celtic population. Many Scots/Irish/Welsh came to settle this area, some of their heirs know little to nothing about their heritage or their ancestors and watching them learn about Celtic peoples and culture, through music, dancing and storytelling is why we continue offering the festival each year.

What is the event’s core mandate?
The main focus of the festival is to provide information and exposure to Celtic culture. The festival offers day long Scottish/Irish music and traditional dancing including lessons to teach basic dance skills, some of which are very similar to our own square dancing. We also have a lot of children’s activities, highland games, crafts and Celtic storytellers to pass down the oral history and wonderful tales that sometimes are lost in our technologic world of today. We also sponsor a number of artisans demonstrating the old crafts, like spinning, pottery making, the art of hand-carving Welsh Lovespoons, so children and adults alike have the chance to see these heritage arts for themselves. Members of our local St. Andrew Pipes and Drums always favor us with a concert and for many, this is the first, possibly the only time, they will ever get to hear the skirl of the pipes. We involve local historians, Civil War re-enactors and members of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution to talk about the Scots/Irish role in those conflicts.

How has it grown over the years?
When we held the first Tartan Day we had about 50 in attendance, we have gone to more than 1,000 and almost every year we have at least one ex-pat who attends, saying they wanted a taste of the old country.

Who attends the event?
We get people of all ages from all over the area and neighboring states. Attendees include people with Celtic ancestors and others who just want to learn more about the culture and enjoy the music.

What can they expect to experience this year?
We will have ceili and traditional Scottish bands, Scottish Highland dancing, artisans, vendors, Scottish/American/Welsh fare, Scottish Clan exhibits, genealogy help, childrenás games and crafts, medieval re-enactors, displays of Celtic-themed merchandise including one of a kind jewelry made from chainmaille. One of our raffle prizes this year is a kilt and accessories donated by St. Kilda, of Pittsburgh, and a Scottish dagger.

Why is it an important event for the Celtic community there?
The festival not only shares information of the Celtic culture with those with Celtic roots, it also opens the eyes of others who may just be interested in learning more about other lands and times.

What are the plans for the event in the years ahead?
We hope we are able to continue to raise enough funding to keep the festival self-sufficient and growing in our little corner of the world. We have begun sponsoring an annual fundraising Scottish Tartan Day Tea to help with expenses.