How did Big Stone Celtic get its name? Well, the seven Celtic nations–Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, Brittany and Galicia–are renowned for their stone circles and individual standing stones, so a Celtic Festival in Big Stone Gap could only be called one thing.
Since its inception ten years ago, Big Stone Celtic has emerged as one of just a handful of pan-Celtic festivals in America, and in this region. Combining music, food, costume and stories to celebrate the strong connections between Appalachia and its European roots, the format is modeled on long established (as in 650 years) village festivals in Scotland, Ireland and Brittany. Although all the venues are located within easy walking distance of each other in downtown Big Stone Gap, the event truly represents a global village.
This year features the internationally acclaimed Scottish musician William Jackson; harpist, composer, flautist, teacher and player of many other instruments, he was part of the highly influential group Ossian during the 1970s and 80s.
Sigean are once again our house band. Recognized by enthusiasts as THE best exponents of Irish music in the area, they have been firm favorites at Big Stone Celtic from the beginning, and will play for the Saturday evening ceilidh dance, in addition to their afternoon concert performance.
Also returning are the Appalachian Highlanders Pipes and Drum band under the direction of Randy Stanley. A crowd favorite, they will lead the parade of participants –which will also include the horses and sheepdogs featured at Bullitt Park. Also at the park will be an expanded Highland Games demonstration and team competition.
New this year is a 5K run which will start across from the fire hall at 1pm.
Regular features include afternoon tea with music at the Fox House Museum, plus music at the farmers’ market, Miners Park and The SW Virginia Museum. The Celtic Kitchen offers tastes of the seven nations, and there are workshops and presentations at Tales of the Lonesome Pine Bookstore.
For children, the library is hosting music and craft events, and there will be a range of kids’ activities at Bullitt Park.
Saturday’s activities will start at 9 am with a 26 mile bike race honoring the late Bill Collie. This reflects the inclusion of bike races in many European Celtic festivals and is a legacy of the early village festival model that included horse races.
Once again, this year there will be a free evening concert on Friday at the Goodloe Center of Mountain Empire Community College starting at 7 pm, courtesy of ProArt, and featuring William Jackson, Four Leaf Peat and Raven & Red, introduced and MCd by Jack Beck (host of Celtic Clanjamphry on WETS fm and WEHC fm).
From its inception Big Stone Celtic has been generously supported by local individuals and businesses as well as Wise County and Big Stone Gap Town Council. As a result, most venues are free, and those that are not are supporting next year’s festival. The organizers appreciate the ways in which the town and its citizens have embraced this heritage celebration, and look forward to seeing everyone on the day.
Full details and times can be found at www.bigstoneceltic.com and on Facebook.