The Beach Celtic Festival Celts Among Us

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Submitted by Don Graham

Every year at the beginning of September as summer is packing up its sunshine and long days The Beach Celtic Festival rolls into the green, lush Kew Gardens in east end Toronto. For the past ten years Celts from all over the area converge on this tiny community to flash their tartan and kilts and get in touch with the heritage they hold near and dear to their hearts.  All things Celtic, Scottish, Irish and Welsh, dominate the park on that weekend and this year will mark year number 11 for the event’s organizer Sandy Graham.

“I am amazed and humbled that we are here to celebrate our 11th Anniversary of The Beach Celtic Festival 2014. What started out as a one day celebration in honour of the passing of my Mum, Jemima Blackie Sutherland, has now turned into a tradition in the place I call home, The Beach.  An event like this would not be possible without thanking all the people who make it happen every year, and what should be known is this is all done from the heart and spirit of a team of volunteers who feel it is important to keep heritage and history alive. The Board of All Things Celtic donates countless hours to bring this event to life every September. Year after year, I count on family, friends and talent who tirelessly donate their time, efforts and devotion to this great event that has taken on a life of its own. Even my brother, Don, a country recording artist in his own right, gets talked into singing ‘Scottish’ every year!) Our regular vendors return year after year; I am proud to call them supporters and count on them to constantly appear in their regular spots, weaving their magic to make up the mosaic of the Celtic feeling.

OMFGOMFGWithout their support, both monetary and spirit, there would be no Festival. They call it their ‘year end’ party after so many Scottish Highland games occur in this Province. My family, friends, volunteers and supporters all deserve ‘a kiss and a cuddle’ for their patience throughout the summer, when our household and lives become a landing spot for flyers, posters and all other things Celtic. Last but not least, I thank my Mum and Dad, Jemima and Donald, who brought me up as a first generation Canadian and to be proud of that as well as my Scottish roots.

The entertainment at this year’s Festival will be stellar with the iconic band The Mahones set to headline on Saturday September 7th. And the ever popular Meghan Bold and her Bold Steps Dancers will once again provide their colourful blend of Scottish Highland and Canadian Step dancing incorporated into a high energy, entertaining segment. Meghan and her dancers will be appearing both Saturday and Sunday during the Festival. Also appearing both days are the goodtime Celtic group Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost (OMFG) consists of t he Lamb brothers Stephen and Bryan with percussionist and Bodhran player Scot Allan.  Brooke Richardson, an accomplished violinist and fiddle player is sure to delight audiences, which she started doing at the age of nine. Her Great Grandparents hailed from both Belfast, Ireland and Aberdeen, Scotland. The group is rounded out with bassist Matti Palonen .

Caledon County  consisting of Stephanie Miletic: fiddle, vocals, Rory Sinclair: pipes, guitar, bass, vocals Gaye Zimmerman-Huycke: guitar, bass vocals play a blend of traditional Scottish and Irish Musical as well as  Rock, Cajun, Country and Pop will be entertaining with Piper Rory doing the emcee honours.

Mimi O'BonsawinMimi O'BonsawinA special added attraction this year is Mimi O’Bonsawin. Mimi is not officially a Celt per se although her musical director and guitar player Thomas Wade has his roots in Scotland. Mimi is a quickly rising star of Aboriginal and French Canadian birth and at just 20 years old has already made her mark in her field. The Aboriginals and French speaking people of Canada interacted closely with the newly arrived Celts thus making her appearance both historical and fitting. Be sure to catch her intriguing blend of rhythm and empowering songs.

The headlining Mahones are an Irish-born, Canadian Irish-punk band, formed in 1990 by Dublin-born Finny McConnell, as a one-off band for a St. Patrick's Day party. Encouraged by a positive reception decided to carry on. And carry on they did. The Mahones have released twelve albums to date, Draggin’ The Days, Rise Again, The Hellfire Club Sessions, Here Comes Lucky, Paint The Town Red - The Best Of, Live At The Horseshoe, Take No Prisoners, The Irish Punk Collection, Whiskey Devils - A Tribute To The Mahones, The Black Irish Album, Angels & Devils, A Great Night on the Lash: Live in Italy, and one very rare cassette, Clear The Way. The MahonesThe MahonesThe Black Irish Album, The Mahones’ critically acclaimed 7th studio album, was released along with a tribute album in 2011, featuring 20 international bands covering Mahones’ songs. The Mahones' latest album, Angels & Devils, features guest appearances by Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo, Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers, and Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphys.

And of course there will the pagentry of the Pipes and Drums with  their pomp and ceremony making sure to make that strong Celtic connection between past and present.
This is truly a family affair so bring the kids, eat some fun, outdoor food, shop for Celtic curios at the host of vendors plying their wares.

Hope to see you there.