Celtic Music Festival Brings Melody and Mayhem to Nathan Benderson Park

Todays News


Brush out the beard and take out the tartan—the third annual Celtic Music Festival has arrived. Opening tonight at 4pm at Nathan Benderson Park, the festival brings two days of Celtic music, Celtic style, food, drink, fun for the kiddies and even a Viking invasion by boat. Friday night’s free, but Saturday lasts all day—come out for both because the pipes are calling. New this year is a VIP section in the Finish Tower at Nathan Benderson Park, where VIP ticketholders can enjoy special food and drink—as well as air conditioning—while watching the music and mayhem from an elevated position.

Kicking off at 4pm tonight, Friday night is free and all about the Celtic music, with local favorites Clover’s Revenge getting the party started with some Irish speed folk, to be followed throughout the festival by a whole host of Celtic favorites, including the legendary Derek Warfield of The Wolfe Tones. Teaming up with a new generation of virtuosos, Warfield now leads The Young Wolfe Tones to Sarasota.

Both Friday and Saturday will follow a similar musical trajectory, with the more traditional music coming during the early hours, such as Irish rebel songs from local Bobby Vesey, as well as McIntyre and Celtic Conundrum. As darkness gains, the set transitions into modern Celtic rock, with appearances from the likes of Seven Nations, The Fighting Jamesons and The Screaming Orphans. “I know they scream; I don’t know if they’re orphans,” says Francis Shea Jr., treasurer and event chair for New World Celts, which organized the festival. “But they’re four crazy sisters and they’re really popular.”

And for those looking for even more traditional Celtic arts, Sarasota’s own Blue Skye Pipes & Drums band—one of the only all-woman pipe bands in the country—will be performing, as well as wandering pipers and Irish and Highland Dance groups.

But it’s not just music that draws the crowds to Nathan Benderson Park this weekend. Food trucks will bring everything from traditional fish and chips and shepherds pie to festival staples like cheeseburgers, pizza and pulled pork sliders from Smokin Momma Lora’s BBQ Mobile. And with nine beers on tap, including two custom craft brews from Naughty Monk brewery, made from 500-year-old recipes, there’s plenty of liquid cheer to go around. And with a Kid Zone just around the corner, complete with arts and crafts like pumpkin painting and even a dog parade, all age groups can find something to suit their fancy.

Saturday only, there will be a Viking invasion at dusk, seeing brave Celtic warriors emerging from the festival to defend their land and their people in a pitched battle on the shore. “We’re not going to lose this time,” says Shea.

“You don’t have to be Celtic to have a good time,” he continues. “You just have to want to be, or act like a Celt.”

The Celtic Music Festival begins tonight at 4pm at Nathan Benderson Park and runs through 9:30pm. The festival picks up again the next day at 10:30am and closes out at 10pm. Friday night is free (donations requested) and Saturday is $25 a ticket.

Pictured: Kilts for sale at the Celtic Music Festival. Photo courtesy of the Celtic Music Festival.

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