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Pikes Peak Celtic Festival to celebrate Celtic culture in Colorado Springs

By: JESSICA Allison
June 28, 2013 Updated: June 28, 2013 at 10:00 am
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The sounds of bagpipes. Men in kilts. Log throwing. World championship Celtic dance groups. And the smell of Highland steakburgers made from cattle native to Scotland.

That's right. A Celtic festival returns to Colorado Springs, its first appearance since 1999. The Pikes Peak Celtic Festival fills Memorial Park from Friday through Sunday.

Event manager Joe Poch remembers participating in the Pikes Peak Highland Games, which, until 1999, was held at what is now Rock Ledge Ranch at the Garden of the Gods. He played with the Pikes Peak Highlanders, a Colorado Springs-based pipe and drum band, and performed with Celtic Steps, a dance company with studios around the state.

"I remember closing for the day and I would go on top of a rock and lament," Poch says.

Poch's goal is to resurrect the festival, but with a modern flavor.

So, picture this: a rock band, complete with drums, bass and a screaming guitar. Then, add bagpipes. That's Angus Mohr, a Denver-based rock band.

"If somebody said to me, 'I've never heard Celtic music,' I would say we're not traditional but there's nothing like bagpipes and a driving guitar," says Paul McDaniel, the group's bassist and vocalist.

The group's discography includes traditional Celtic songs, but they would not classify themselves as a traditional Celtic group. Their variety of influences makes them an easy band for people to decide to listen to, McDaniels says.

The Denver-based band Juice O'The Barley plays what they call "Irish music to drink whiskey by." Their set list will include lively singalong songs and dance tunes.

Bassist and vocalist Bill O'Donnell says music has been a part of his life since he was a child, and he's been a musician for more than 30 years. He played French horn through high school and picked up guitar during his senior year.

Juice O'The Barley's current members have been together for seven years. They typically perform at births, wakes and other social gatherings.

"There are songs about life, songs about living, songs about dying, songs about leaving Ireland and going to the United States," O'Donnell says. "Irish songs are just infused with personal stories."

The Pikes Peak Highlanders will add to the traditional Celtic music scene at the festival.

The Highlanders are a 40-piece Celtic pipe and drum band that plays authentic Celtic music in traditional uniform.

In fact, Michael Wheelon, band manager, says the instrument is so mired in tradition - in sound and song - that there is no new way to play the bagpipes.

"That's the neat thing about it - that you could pick it up today and read music that was written 300 years ago," he says.

"The heritage and culture of bagpipes has stayed the same way for years and years."

Besides live music and dance, athletes will compete in traditional Scottish athletic competitions.

Thousands of years ago, the question of which clan has the strongest warrior spawned these competitions, which are still an important part of the culture.

The competitions include a variety of events involving throwing weights.

The most unique event, though, is the caber toss. Have you ever seen a man in a kilt throwing a small tree?

However, Scottish athletics have more to offer than just the competition, says Greg Bradshaw, secretary for the Rocky Mountain Scottish Athletes.

"We try to make it all-inclusive," Bradshaw added. "I think whoever comes out is really going to enjoy it."


Pikes Peak Celtic Festival

When: 4 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday June 28-30

Where: Memorial Park, 1605 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

Tickets: Single day $5-$12, weekend pass $8-$20;



So what is ‘Celtic?’

“Celtic” is considered to be a homogenized term to describe cultural groups in the British Isles and Ireland. This includes Scotland and Wales. Anthropologically speaking, it is a set of language groups spread across mainland Europe and the British Isles before the time of the Roman Empire. SOURCE:

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