Annual Celtic Festival opens today in Dade City

Drummer Tim Marchand, left, Julie Wong, right, and the rest of the Dunedin Pipe Band perform at the Celtic Festival in 2007.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times (2007)

Drummer Tim Marchand, left, Julie Wong, right, and the rest of the Dunedin Pipe Band perform at the Celtic Festival in 2007.

The Celtic Festival is expected to draw thousands of visitors to east Pasco this weekend for highland games, traditional dancing and pipe bands — just as it has every year for the past decade.

Except this year, one of Zephyrhills' trademark festivals will become a Dade City event.

Organizers have moved the Celtic celebration to the Pioneer Florida Museum, which offers more parking and a fenced area to ensure everyone pays the admission fee.

"I really think the venue is a lot better," said festival founder Steve Serneels.

In previous years, he said, the limited parking at Zephyr Park sent some visitors away.

Zephyrhills officials also said they would be unable to set up temporary fencing at Zephyr Park for this year's event because of budget constraints. Event organizers discovered the Pioneer Florida Museum grounds were already fenced in.

The festival, which attracted nearly 16,000 people last year, provides an opportunity to learn about Celtic traditions.

"No matter what age you are, the variety of music, food, things to see is just a nice way to spend a day," Serneels said.

Various clans from across the state will gather the way their ancestors did. A clan represents a geographic lineage for members; each clan is its own community. As part of their heritage, clans gather to celebrate traditions and take place in the highland games.

Serneels launched the festival 11 years ago but has been involved with traditional Celtic highland games since he was a child. In his youth, he played in a pipe band, and he grew up watching traditional Celtic dancing and athletic events such as the caber toss, an event requiring participants to toss a 19-foot tapered log weighing up to 130 pounds.

Events this year include piping and drumming competitions, athletic events and highland dancing, as well as a Celtic dog breed parade. The children will be able to climb a rock wall and play games, while the whole family can enjoy traditional food and crafts from more than 30 vendors.

This year a record number of pipe bands will visit, Serneels said.

"We're getting more out-of-state competitors now," he said, adding he hopes to attract more.

"The museum really gives us a good opportunity to expand to the size we want," said Serneels, although he acknowledged he doesn't want the festival to get too big. "We want to keep it really affordable, the way it is."

>>if you go

Celtic Festival

Where: Pioneer Florida Museum, 15602 Pioneer Museum Road (off U.S. 301, north of Dade City).

When: Starting at 6 p.m. today; from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: $7.

Information: Visit

zephyrhillscelticfestival.com.

Annual Celtic Festival opens today in Dade City 03/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 1:19pm]

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