August 30, 2010


Celtic traditions on display

Music, games accent 10th annual festival in Courthouse Park

CelticJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Musician and storyteller Deirdre McCarthy tells an ancient Irish love story to audience members at the Cortland Celtic Festival Saturday in Courthouse Park.

Staff Reporter

The sound of the bagpipes in the air was enough to make any of the hundreds strolling this weekend through Courthouse Park feel a little proud of Celtic heritage and culture.
Crowds of families and their friends attended this year’s 10th annual Celtic Festival, which celebrates the Scottish and Irish cultures with games, food, commodities and music.
Brenda Clark, one of the festival’s organizers, is proud of her own Scottish roots and said music has always been an integral part of this local event.
“For a lot of cultures music is a big part, but specific to our culture are the bagpipes,” Clark said Saturday. “Love them or hate them, they say Scotland — there isn’t anything better in the world.”
Clark is part of the committee managing the festival. Longtime co-chairs Danny and Pamela Ross stepped down this year.
Clark never learned to play the bagpipes, but Binghamton resident Betty-Anne Juraska spent several years learning the instrument.
Juraska, who is of Irish and Scottish decent, says learning how to properly blow into and squeeze bagpipes while marching make it a very difficult instrument to master.
She plays with the Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Band. Clad in kilts, members of the 30-person band performed in Courthouse Park.
But to her, playing the instrument is more than just a celebration of her own heritage.
“I’ve always liked the bagpipes,” she said. “One of the things I get out of it is we (the band) do a lot of funerals and a lot of fundraisers and I can’t always give to those things monetarily, but at least I can play.”
Juraska said she is looking forward to passing on the skills to her 6-year-old granddaughter, who has expressed interest in playing the bagpipes one day.
Those who attended the festival could also listen to classical Celtic folk tales laced with live musical performances. There were also ways for people to get a taste of other entertaining aspects about the culture.
The festival also included the Heavy Athletics competition, which included six events, among them the 22-pound hammer throw and the 16-pound rock toss.
One tent set up in the park belonged to Montour Falls residents Paul and Karen Cartwright, who were selling homemade Celtic-styled costumes.
Paul wore a kilt, while his wife wore a homemade costume modeled after a popular Celtic mythological figure — the fairy.
Cartwright has been designing theater costumes for 15 years and enjoys the fun behind sprites and fairies in Celtic myth. She wore her own homemade fairy costume Saturday, which sported sparkling wings and took several hours to piece together.
“I think of myself as from the woodland tribe,” she said with a laugh. “Some think of fairies as dark or silly, but I’m neither.”
Women are powerful figures in both the Celtic mythology and way of life, she said, adding that fairies are an interesting feminine portrayal.
Clark said showcasing the special aspects of another culture is one of the core ideas behind this festival and others held locally such as St. Anthony’s Festival.
“I think if we understood each, other then in the world there would be less problems,” Clark said. “If we were to look at the roots of our American heritage, you’d find a lot of Scottish and Irish people as the foundation of our history.”


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