Saline Celtic Festival shares amazing feats – Heritage Newspapers

By Steven Howard, Heritage Newspapers

Lilliane Aittama, 5, cautiously approached what appeared to be a statue of Cearbhall A’Danu, a lord of Celtic mythology, as she stood totally still on a podium Saturday at the Saline Celtic Festival.

As Lilliane stepped closer, however, the statue came to life and bowed to the girl, much to her amazement.

Lilliane’s face bore elements of excitement and confusion as the majestic statue offered her a magic stone, sprinkled her with dust and offered a piece of rolled up parchment.

The small note explained how Cearbhall had become stone at the hands of a dreaded enemy, but was “brave and strong” and “defended his lands and his people from every foe.”

Similar amazing feats abounded at the Saline festival over the course of Friday and Saturday, amazing the adults and children in attendance with traditional Celtic activities.

Friday brought the Skill at Arms competition to the jousting fields, with costumed men on horseback using 10-foot jousting poles to capture small rings off of stationary posts.

Competitor Stephen MacPherson told the crowd “this is an actual competition” sanctioned, he said, by the International Jousting Association.

The following day, the same men donned full suits of armor for the full-contact joust.

The announcer for the event said the competitors reached speeds of about 30 miles an hour as they rode toward each other extending 10-foot poplar poles with the objective of hitting the other directly in the shoulder.

Though the top 3 feet of the poles were said to be balsa wood, the explosions were fierce when full contact was made.

Before the joust, people in designated stands were assigned a Knight and country of origin to root for as spectators might have done in medieval times.

One Knight of English origin yelled to the crowd that he would “put the Scotts and French in their place,” which solicited loud booing from those sections.

A bit more of a tame, but every bit as educational, activity was also going on in the Textile Arts Tent as Barbara Schutzgruber and others were weaving tartans of all varieties using time-tested methods.

As she worked on a scarf, Schutzgruber said she loves to practice the craft and that she has been weaving for about 25 years.

“I used to watch the weavers at Greenfield Village,” she said of the artisans that inspired her.

She manipulated the wool to make a multi-colored pattern she said was based on other specific tartans.

Schutzgruber is part of the Ann Arbor Fiber Arts Guild as were others in attendance making textiles.

At the dancing stage, Michael Patrick Farrell, Art Director for Brogue in Toronto, could be seen teaching workshops and performing traditional dances at various times throughout the day.

He said he welcomed all skill levels at the dance classes because the lessons were really about finding the heart of the activity.

“What I like to teach is an enthusiasm course,” he said, saying more technical concerns were not a worry. “What is more important is the soul of the dancing.”

Farrell said things got off to “an auspicious start” shortly after arriving in Saline, finding the first four-leaf clover of his life near the stage of the dancing tent.

“I feel it found me,” he said.

Watching the opening ceremonies was Milan resident Robert Puckett, who was wearing the traditional Scottish kilt and related ornamentation.

Puckett, who has traced his heritage to the Stewart of Appin clan, said he has been participating in similar events for about four years.

“After talking with the relatives, I found out I was part Scottish,” he said.

Puckett said there were a few festival activities he looked forward to most of all.

“First of all, the music,” he said, “then there’s the rugby, and the people.”

He also mentioned enjoying a traditional Scottish dish that seems to only appeal to certain tastes.

“People look at me weird, but I love my haggis,” he said.

Steven Howard can be reached at 429-7380 or Follow his blog at


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