Highland games and kilts will mingle with native American flute music and dancing. There will also be fire breathing, juggling, children’s activities and a variety of arts and crafts. All the events take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Chieftains Museum property on Riverside Parkway.
“The festival was started when I suddenly realized that so many local people who came into the museum would have Cherokee ancestors,” said programs director Debby Brown. “But they would also have Scottish, Irish or Welsh ancestors as well. This led me to research the subject and I found that there was a connection between the two cultures.”
Brown said she wanted to give area residents a festival that honored both cultures.
The festival begins at 9 a.m. with bagpiper Joe Dunaway followed by old songs by Phil Helton and Lynn West Baines then Kathy Dobson on the Celtic Harp.
Mike Serna will play the Native American flute and the Jumper Family Dance Troop will entertain festivalgoers with their traditional dancing.
One of the more humorous activities is the Bonnie Knees contest. It has become a tradition at many Highland Games events. Traditionally, a woman from the audience is asked to be the judge for the contest and is blindfolded. Radio personality Nelle Reagan was the judge and returns in that capacity this year.
The contestants — men in kilts — each take turns standing in front of her as she touches their knees and decides which has the bonniest knees at the games. There are often other prizes awarded in the competition as well. This year’s event will also include a “Boney Knees” winner.
The little ones will have competitions of their own when the afternoon rolls around. A Fairest Fairy and Wee Highland Warrior Contest. If kids come dressed in costumes, their admission fee will be waived if they’re accompanied by a paying adult.
Highland Games athletes will be at the festival demonstrating the different events that make up the games.
“The response was overwhelming last year,” Brown said. “This year will be much bigger. We’ve got over 50 vendors and lots more to do and see. There was such a feeling of friendship and camaraderie last year that we know it’s going to be even better this year. We want the whole community to come out and learn about and celebrate these two cultures.”
Aside from the activities that are uniquely Cherokee or Celtic, there will also be food vendors and arts and craft displays and demonstrations including handmade jewelry, photography, bead art, children’s wooden swords, long bows, crossbows and shields, angora weaving and handmade soaps. There will also be storytelling throughout the day in the museum. Bob Harris, Gary Greene, Terrell Shaw, Sandy Faulk and Christy Davis will be spinning Cherokee, Irish and Scottish tales for visitors to enjoy.
The event takes place June 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Chieftains Museum, 501 Riverside Parkway.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for senior adults, $2 for students and free for members. Some crafts may require a small fee.
Visitors who wear a kilt get a $1 off the price of admission.
The festival is made possibly by a grant from Georgia Humanities as well as sponsors such as Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, Rome’s Own Musical Ensembles, Ansley Saville and Johnny on the Spot.
Visit online at chieftainsmuseum.org for additional festival information or call 706-291-9494.