Hundreds took advantage of the beautiful spring weather on Saturday (March 16) as they made their way out to the first-ever Celts ‘N Kilts Irish Festival.
Hosted at Trinity Junior High School in Fort Smith, the event featured traditional Irish competitions, dance, music, and food, as well as fun activities and shopping for the entire family.
The festival opened with a special ceremony featuring a performance by the Fort Smith Firefighters Pipe and Drum Corp. Master of Ceremonies Gary Hunt then welcomed the crowd and introduced each of the nine clans that would participate in the Highland Games.
Based on traditional Irish/Scottish competitions of strength and endurance, the Highland games included modified versions of the original events. The games consisted of three strength events: caber toss, weight throw, and a “sheep” toss.
The caber toss required competitors to hoist a long wooden pole, the caber, up into the air, in order to have it travel across the foul line as far as possible. In the sheep toss, participants attempted to throw the “sheep,” a large duffel bag stuffed with rags, backwards over their head and over a horizontal pole. Commonly known as “shot put,” the weight throw had competitors hold an iron ball in one hand, cradled between the shoulder and chin, and attempt to throw it to outer edge of the game circle.
A member of each clan was also required to participate in the cross-country 5K. Following the strength rounds, all nine clans came together for the games finale, a wagon push. Team members pushed one another in a weighted wagon in thirty-second increments. The team traveling the greatest distance overall won the competition.
Dozens of others runners also took part in the 5K race. Spanning the Trinity campus, the track included several hills, climbs and jumps for participants. Finishing in 20:08, runner Joel Perez was the first to complete the race.
Admission to the festival was free. Activities for people of all ages including horseshoes and potato sack races were set-up throughout the festival. Participants were awarded Irish-themed prizes.
Many guests and clan competitors came dressed in Irish kilts while others made sure to wear their brightest green attire. Several runners sported “lucky” clover socks and headbands.
During the festival, dancers from the McCafferty School of Irish Dance entertained the crowd. The dancers performed energetic soft and hard shoe Irish routines, while dressed in traditional Irish folk costumes.
A vendor fair, featuring area merchants, was set up on the campus ball courts. Festival-goers could shop for a variety of handcrafted items including jewelry, pottery, baked goods and homemade soaps and lotions. Local outdoor recreation and fitness clubs were also in attendance with information about their organizations. While shopping, guests enjoyed a variety of festive dishes including corned beef sandwiches, banger ‘n mash, and chicken ‘n chips.
After the Highland games, the crowd enjoyed humorous limericks read by Hunt. Local artist peter Lippincott also took to the stage, followed by Cold Water Dog and Blue Fiddle.
The event was a collaborative effort of Fort Smith’s four Catholic schools and Mercy Hospital. Christ the King, Immaculate Conception, St. Boniface Elementary Schools and Trinity Junior High School organized the event in the hopes of providing the area with a fun, cultural festival for its families and other residents to enjoy.
“We are thrilled that the parishes have all come together to put on this event,” said event organizer Patrick Pendleton. “It has been great seeing this all come together. We’ve had a blast.”
Proceeds from the event will benefit the four participating schools.