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Celts welcomed in St. Augustine

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By Michael Isam

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St. Augustine, Fla, (March 11, 2014) – “Here a kilt, there a kilt, everywhere a kilt, kilt.”
Or so it seemed.

St. Augustine celebrated its Celtic (kel-tic) roots with the 4th Annual Celtic Heritage and Music Festival over the week-end. And the roots were celebrated hard!

What, you may ask, are they doing celebrating Celtic heritage? Is St. Augustine not a Spanish heritage city?

“Well,” began Sherri Cunningham, “our founder Pedro Menendez, was from Aviles located in the Galicia Celtic region of Spain.” “An Irish priest, Father Michael O’Reilly,” said her husband John, “served as a chaplain to the soldiers garrisoned in the Castillo de San Marcos during the Second Spanish Period (1784 – 1821).” The Cunningham’s are proprietors of Ann O’Malley’s Pub and are the chief cooks, bottle-washers, and administrative fire department dynamic duo of the festival

“What is amazing for a Spanish heritage city,” said former Mayor George Gardner in an interview with Old City Life, “is having a heritage more of bagpipes than bullfights.”

“Besides Menendez,” said Albert Syeles, a cofounder of Romanza, “there are at least six more Colonial Florida Governors of Celtic decent. The second Spanish period saw Irishmen Brigadier Sebastian Kindelan y O’Regan and Enrique Henry White. The British had Irishman Gen. Patrick Tonyn and Scotsman Maj. Gen. James Grant, Laird of Ballindalloch. Governorship of British West Florida had Cornishman Adm. John Eliot, Irishman Brig. Gen. Montfort Browne, and Scotsman George Johnstone.

Music by international Celtic bands, a Glen of Scots Clans, professional Highland Games competitions for men and women, great food, spirits and camaraderie carried the weekend. The food booths were a hit as always. Several fun-lovers touted traditional bangers and other sundry goodies as they roamed from event to event and tent to tent .

Many parents visited the children area in hopes the little ones would wear themselves out early so the grownups could enjoy the other events. Some succeeded.

One always popular person was ‘The Fairy’. She never spoke, but the children, and several adults, were clapping their hands and shouting to the top of their lungs, “I believe in Fairies!”

The crowning glory was the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday morning. Multitudes lined the route as the pipes, drums, kilts, pirates, veteran organizations, and a variety of groups passed in review. Popular with the children were those passing out candy while the adults worked hard attracting the attention of the parade float personnel passing out Mardi Gras-style necklaces.

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