Friday, February 19, 2016

Irish Eyes Are Smiling in St. Augustine

Memories of last year's Celtic Music and Heritage Festival in my beloved St. Augustine make me yearn for a return visit. This year's festival takes place March 11-13 and celebrates Celtic culture in the nation's oldest city.

Celtic Festival - St. Augustine 2015 - 065
Ready to get my Celtic on with some pirate garb. Later, I got me a kilt.


Celtic culture is dear to my heart and it's in my blood; my ancestors hailed from Northern Spain, one of seven Celtic nations. The Spanish Celts share many traditions with Scottish and Irish Celts, the most common being music, costume and dance, as evidenced in the gaita (bagpipe), falda escosesa (kilt) and jota (jig).

St. Augustine's Spanish roots are intertwined with Celtic connections and some historical ties began early on: Florida's first Spanish Colonial Governor Don Pedro Menendez and his 800 colonists were from Northern Spain. In 1784, 460 Irish soldiers were stationed in St. Augustine with the Hibernia Regiment. Father Miguel O'Reilly arrived in St. Augustine in 1777 to minister to the colony's Menorcan residents. He later became the Hibernian Regiment's chaplain and vicar of the entire colony.

St. Augustine, so rich in history, comes alive with Celtic culture during the festival. I attended last year with my friend Michelle Marcos, a Miami-based historical romance novelist whose trilogy Highland Knaves is set in Scotland. Her beautifully written novels serve up sexy romance, to be sure, with even more to love -- historically accurate storylines draw the reader into page-turning adventures.

It was only natural to talk about about sexy Celts and history all weekend long!


Throughout the weekend, we also enjoyed observing men in kilts ... oh pardon me, I meant men playing Highland games in kilts. There was still occasion to blush a little; the athletes mustered up quite a bit of strength and dexterity to impress the ladies, for sure, especially in the caber toss.

For musical pleasure, we heard many acts, but none so rousing for me as the bagpipes and drums of Albannach and the sound of bagpipes in the morning as I sipped coffee on the balcony of the St. George Inn facing St. Augustine's old city gates. We had the best view of the parade and the vibration from the instruments stirred the cool, crisp air that morning.

Celtic Festival - St. Augustine 2015 - 100
Bagpipes everywhere! 

Celtic Festival - St. Augustine 2015 - 057
The best view of the parade is from the balcony at The St. George Inn.

Celtic Festival - St. Augustine 2015 - 076
With the friendly musicians from Albannach.

Many clans were present to represent their lineages proudly. They paraded with bagpipes and drums throughout the day.

I stepped out in my pirate garb with makeshift Celtic variations. If fashion is your thing, the festival's vendors offer beautiful merchandise.

Celtic Festival - St. Augustine 2015 - 096
Several clans were representing at the festival.

Celtic Festival - St. Augustine 2015 - 087
Because beer wenches.

I asked Michelle, who traveled to Scotland to research her novels, to join me on this trip because I knew she'd enjoy traveling back to another century in St. Augustine. That's my usual modus operandi for heading up north: "I'd like to spend some time in the 18th century this weekend, how about you?"

That's how beautifully St. Augustine captures its rich history and even more so during the spring time when the Celts invade the city. My eyes may not be exactly Irish, but the Spanish Celtic heart in me shines when I think about this memorable trip.

The St. Augustine Celtic Music and Heritage Festival takes place March 11-13, 2016 and features a whiskey tasting, Celtic performers, Highland games, Celtic clans, food, merchandise and children's entertainment. For more information, visit Celtic St. Augustine.

More photos on Flickr.

Disclosure: this historical travel experience was supported in part by Florida's Historic Coast, The St. George Inn and GM Southeast. All opinions my own.

No comments: