Beach Celtic Festival returns to Kew Gardens

Traditionally held on the weekend after Labour Day, Toronto’s only outdoor ceilidh started in 2004 by Sandy Graham – a first generation Scottish Canadian. When Sandy’s mum was passing away, she asked not to be mourned but to be celebrated. The event has now grown into a local tradition, celebrating the Scottish, Irish and Welsh diaspora who came to Canada to start a new life. Here’s Gary Richardson and Don Graham, Sandy’s brother, playing a tune on September 11, 2016. PHOTO: Edwin Luk

The Beach Celtic Festival returns to Kew Gardens Sept. 9 and 10. Now in its 14th year, founder and festival organizer Sandy Graham launched the celebrated festival as a tribute to her late mother, Jemima Blackie Sutherland, a highland dancer from Edinburgh, Scotland.

The free weekend festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, rain or shine (obviously, considering its geographical roots).

Toronto’s only outdoor ceilidh, the event is family-friendly and features kilted bagpipers, highland dancers, musical entertainment and a Celtic marketplace, complete with treats. Children’s activities this year include the teaching of ceilidh and Celtic themed face painting. It usually draws between 750 to 1,000 people per day, says Graham. “Rumour is some Vikings are going to come as well,” she said.

This year’s entertainment includes: Don Graham, Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost, Lisa Hartt, Gary Richardson, Syd Simkins, Bold Step Highland Dancers, Caledon County Piper Rory Sinclair and The Butler-Fearon-O’Connor School of Irish Dance.

One of those long-time performers, Steve Lamb, one of the founding members of Old Man Flanagan’s Ghost, will be awarded Beach Celt of the Year at a ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 9.

“Steve is instrumental every year in helping us get the stage, equipment and talent organized and also promotes not just his Irish heritage but his Beach roots wherever he plays,” said Graham.

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