The Maine Celtic Celebration

The Maine Celtic Celebration is a family oriented commemoration of the rich Celtic heritage, culture and hospitality found along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. Chris Brinn, the festival’s music coordinator, tells us about this weekend’s festivities in the town of Belfast.

What are your roles and responsibilities with the event?
I book all the entertainment acts and arrange all the workshops for the weekend. I set up the schedule, and am the secretary for the committee.

What is the event’s core mandate?
Our mission is to promote the Celtic culture of Mid Coast Maine. The Belfast area was originally settled by Scots-Irish, and our goal is to explore the culture with events that are Celtic in orientation.

How has it grown over the years?
Well, the size of the event has become more focused. We have tried to add more music, workshops, and sessions. The participation piece is what sets us apart from some other Celtic events in the state.

Who attends the gathering?
Lots of different people. Obviously we get a lot of Celtic music fans, but it’s a family friendly event and we try to have stuff for kids to do. We’ve had a lot of tourist interest; folks plan their vacation to be around Belfast for the Celebration.

What can they expect to experience this year?
Lots of fun and games, our cheese roll, the Highland games, Men in Kilts contest, our Road Race, and of course great Music and dancing.

Why is it an important event for the Celtic community there?
The Celtic Celebration has become a bit of a summer linchpin. For folks with Celtic heritage, it’s a great way for them to stay in touch with family roots and history. They can share the culture with their kids, maybe inspire themselves to try some dancing or an instrument, and reconnect with activities that are not part of the techno culture. I don’t think that you have to have a Celtic background to really enjoy these sorts of events. The music can speak to anyone and everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to Jazz, Classical, Rock, or Country; anyone can recognize good music and talented musicians when they hear it. From a purely financial standpoint, the Maine Celtic Celebration helps the business community in downtown Belfast bringing lots of folks to the area. It’s a real boost to the summer dollars.

What are the plans for the event in the years ahead?
Not sure. We’re hoping to survive, but running and event like this takes dollars and it’s tough to rely solely on donations. We want the event to be free to the public, but even free events require permits, infrastructure, and all kinds of other things to make them run, and that’s not accounting for the fact that to book high level music acts requires some cash. Right now we manage to fill two days of music on two stages. I think that that is sufficient and viable without serious financial issues. A lot of the acts that we’ve booked have expressed how nice and intimate the Celebration is, and that to be bigger would perhaps detract from that. Right, now we have to get through this year.

Is enough being done to preserve and promote Celtic culture?
I think those who have Celtic heritage do everything in their power to preserve and promote it. It’s actually a very personal thing that is passed down though families. I’m not sure if anything more could be done. Ireland, Scotland, and Cape Breton seem to have great commercial success with their promotion. Brittany and Galicia would be following this model. The Isle of Mann, Wales, and Cornwall haven’t managed mainstream commercial success yet, but it’s coming.