Four years ago, Sandra McFarland rode horseback into the opening ceremony of the Scots on the Rocks Moab Celtic Festival to meet her groom, Darrell, who waited on stage where they were married during a handfasting ceremony. Their hands were tied together with cords, symbolizing their union, literally tying their two families together.
Since then, two more couples have literally tied the knot during the Celtic Festival, including a surprise wedding two years ago where the groom, Ian Hughes, didn’t know he was getting married that day. Hughes, who was master of ceremonies that year, married his fiancée Shirley Hughes.
“It’s a very fun festival; you never know what’s going to happen,” Sandra McFarland said.
The Scots on the Rocks Moab Celtic Festival takes place Nov. 1, 2, and 3, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, 3641 S. Hwy 191. That evening a color guard and the “massed bands” of bagpipes and drums will march into the arena where they will perform a couple of songs all together before marching out again.
An evening of entertainment follows, with the Rinceoiri Don Spraoi Irish Dancers, The Angry Brians, Tom Lambie, and the Wicked Tinkers.
“They are tribal Celtic; Moab loves them,” said Moab Celtic Festival President Dan Lamont, referring to the Wicked Tinkers. “These guys are awesome.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the music and dancing continues, along with athletic competitions – such as the caber toss, where athletes throw a heavy pole over a bar. There’s also the “weight over bar” where participants throw a heavy piece of metal over a bar that is lifted higher after each toss. During the sheath toss, both men and women demonstrate their strength by using a two-pronged pitchfork to toss a small bale of hay wrapped in burlap over a pole.
Band competitions also occur during the weekend. Andy Draper, a drummer in the Utah Pipe Band, and vice-president of Scots on the Rocks, the nonprofit that puts on the Moab Celtic Festival, said he expects 30-40 of the band members to be present for the competition.
The Utah Pipe Band was formed in 1937 by Robert S. Barclay. His great-grandson Jeremy Barclay is current pipe major and leader of the Utah Pipe Band, which also includes Jeremy’s father and uncle. The Utah Pipe Band additionally includes a juvenile band, where Robert Barclay’s great-great-grandson plays.
McFarland, of Salt Lake City, is in charge of all the vendors which include a number of Celtic-themed merchandise and food. Damsels in This Dress, out of Payson, will be at the arena selling hand-sewn corsets and Victorian skirts and other Renaissance clothing; Celtic Caterer is coming with a line of cookbooks featuring Celtic recipes from 200 years ago.
“His recipes are great,” McFarland said. “He does demonstrations all weekend; that’s a lot of fun.”
Blue Frog Company, a new vendor this year, will be selling custom wood carvings, including Celtic knots and crosses. Lalu’s Stained Glass, from Mancos, Colo. will have a booth, plus, there will be custom jewelry makers, and much more.
There’s also Scotch tasting – the drink, of course – going on throughout the day.
Forty-three different Scottish clans will be represented at the festival, each with a booth with information about their clan. If you know you have Scottish heritage but don’t know your clan, stop at any booth, and by giving your name, someone can look it up.
There’s a lot of history to be learned at these Celtic festivals, McFarland said.
To learn more, go to www.scotsontherocksmoab.org