Celts and kilts aplenty this weekend in Ringgold

Celts and kilts aplenty this weekend in Ringgold

August 31st, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa

The image of Highland Games may be that of kilted athletes engaged in shows of strength, but the sounds are of fiddles, pennywhistles, guitars and Bodhrans, goat-skin headed drums.

That will certainly be true this weekend during the Ringgold Highland Games, where bagpipers and sheaf tossers will share the spotlight.

Following the April 27 tornado there were questions about the ability of the Appalachian Celtic Connection and the city of Ringgold to host this annual event.

But not only will the festival go on, its Highland Games Competition has picked up the endorsement of the Georgia State Highland Games competition, according to event spokesman Gene Coleman.

"This year's program in Ringgold will host competition for the entire state of Georgia, which is quite a coup," he said.

Rob Hatch, athletic director for the festival, said it is partly to show support of Ringgold and its resilience following the spring storm that this year's athletes will compete for Georgia State Championship Scottish Highland Games in events that include caber toss, hammer throw and sheaf toss.

A national champion himself, Hatch said this year's games will also feature some of the nation's top athletes, both male and female.

"This is the second year that Scottish Highland Games are being held in this area and we look forward to a long and fruitful alliance with the Appalachian Celtic Festival and Ringgold Highland Games," he said.

Festival board member Richard Ball said this year's musical entertainment alone is worth the price of admission.

The Indianapolis-based band Highland Reign - described by the Edinburgh (Scotland) Times as, "A quite astonishing outfit, these three lads are superb musicians!" - are returning as this year's headliner, Ball said. The Irish band Ballybeg, from Athens, Ga., the duo of Ellen Ireland & Ivan, as well as the Chattanooga Pipes & Drums band will join Highland Reign at the festival site Saturday.

Adding to the festival atmosphere will be vendors offering Celtic jewelry and ironwork, medieval clothing, Appalachian crafts and foods that have a definite taste of the area's Highlands connections.

Eric Herring, in charge of festival logistics, said that, while the athletics are a great thing to see and the music is wonderful to hear, there is another facet unique to this event.

"My favorite part of our festival is the Scottish Clans and Organization tents," he said. "Many people are interested in who they are and where they came from and usually they can find the door to their past at such tents. I love talking with folks about their family roots."

IF YOU GO

What: Appalachian Celtic Festival and Ringgold Highland Games.

Where: Emberson Drive, adjacent Ringgold's swimming pool and walking trail.

When: Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.; Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Cost: Daily admission is $5 for adults, $3 for those 6-12, free for all younger than 6.

Special:A ceilidh, a Celtic social gathering with music and dancing, will take place at the Ringgold Depot on Saturday night beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children 6-12. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to a tornado relief organization.

SCHEDULE

Saturday, Sept. 3

9:45 a.m. - Ellen Ireland & Ivan

10:15 a.m. - Highland Reign

11:00 a.m. - Ballybeg Band

11:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. - Chattanooga Pipes & Drums

1:00 p.m. - Opening Ceremonies

1:30 p.m. - Highland Reign

2:15 p.m. - Ballybeg Band

3:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. - Highland Reign

4:15 p.m. - Ellen Ireland & Ivan

Sunday, Sept. 4

10:00 a.m. - Non-denominational church service

10:45 a.m. - Ballybeg Band

11:30 a.m. - Highland Reign

12:15 p.m. - 12:45 p.m. - Ballybeg Band

1:30 p.m. - Bonniest Knees Contest (Kilted men age 16 & up)

2:30 p.m. - Frettin' On Faith

3:15 p.m. - Highland Reign