"The theme this year is talent talent talent," said Lisa Lockheart, co-chair of the event.
Among the people and groups performing or competing at the Quad Cities event are a U.S. national champion in Highland Dance, a North American-champion pipe band, and a national juvenile-division champion piper.
The daylong event features the Highland Games (traditional Scottish strength competitions), piping and dancing competitions, Celtic entertainment, and workshops, historical re-creations, and demonstrations. The festivities start at 8 a.m. and close down with a traditional Ceilidh at 6 p.m. in the Starlight Ballroom.
The Celtic Highland Games have also added a nice touch to the Ceilidh by naming Jeremy Hix its king. The high-school honor student from Michigan has endured quite an ordeal since his prom night, when he was kicked out of his prom and then expelled because he brought a knife to the event. While that might sound bad, the three-and-a-half-inch blade, called a sgian dubh, is a traditional component of the Scottish outfit Hix wore to prom. Lockheart compared the knife to a cummerbund on a tuxedo - decorative and put on without thought.
"We read about it in USA Today," Lockheart said. She added that Hix's mother told her that the invitation to the Celtic Highland Games has been "the only good thing to come out of this."
Another warm effort at this year's Celtic Highland Games is that the proceeds from the tug-of-war will benefit RIBCO bartender John Horvath, who was seriously injured by a brick that was thrown at him while he was trying to break up a fight. Several competitors in the event are employees of businesses in The District.
The main attraction of the festival is the competition. The games of strength, which start at 8:30 a.m. and are open to all who dare, feature everything from tossing rocks to throwing cabers - 100-pound tree trunks. The games have their origins in the selection and training of warriors.
The Highland Dance competition, featuring an expected 80 dancers, kicks off at 9 a.m., but the main attraction will be the premier-division contests that start at 1 p.m. Kira Cogswell was recently crowned U.S. national champion in the premier level and has delayed her return to college so she can participate in the world championship in Scotland.
A similarly high level of performance is expected in the drumming and pipe-band competitions. Kali Dunlop, who placed first in the juvenile division at nationals, will be competing in the morning solo piping contest. Last year's pipe-band competition was dubbed a "preview" competition and didn't affect the contestants' point totals in national standings; this year, the Celtic Highland Games are hosting a fully sanctioned version with eight bands. It also has sponsors, allowing the event to increase prize and travel money.
Another nationally and internationally recognized performer will be the Midlothian Metro Pipe Band, which will be entertaining crowds starting at 1 p.m. This group, out of the Chicago area, placed first in its division of the North American Pipe Band Championships in Canada and second in the world competition. The band's Grade Three class means that it's among the most skillful amateur groups.
The number of entertainers has increased significantly, with musical entertainment that includes O'Malley's Luck, Navan, Jim Wearne, 4 Shillings Short, and Wylde Nept. Storytellers and dance acts round out the entertainment schedule.
New this year are free workshops, at which people can learn how to do everything from storytelling to bagpiping to the Highland Fling to wrapping a kilt.
The Celtic Highland Games drew about 2,500 people last year, and while Lockheart would not say how many people she hopes to get this year, the festival is clearly targeting expansion - both in attendance and the number of events and features. "Our ambitions are limited only by our volunteer resources," she said.
The Celtic Highland Games of the Quad Cities run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 25. Gate admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students with ID and seniors, and free for children under five. Advanced admission includes a souvenir T-shirt. For more information, call (309)764-9886 or visit (http://www.celtichighlandgames.org).
Celtic Highland Games of the Quad Cities Highlights
For a complete schedule, visit (http://www.celtichighlandgames.org).
8 a.m.: Gates open
noon: Parade of Tartans
12:30 p.m.: opening ceremony
5:30 p.m.: closing ceremony
6 p.m.-10 p.m.: Ceilidh
10 a.m.: Mullane Irish Step Dancers
11 a.m.: Storytellers
11:30 a.m.: Welsh Dancers
1 p.m.: Midlothian Metro Pipe Band
1:30 p.m.: Mullane Irish Step Dancers
2:30 p.m.: Storytellers
3 p.m.: Welsh Dancers
3:30 p.m.: Bonnie Knees Contest
4 p.m.: Massed Bands
Glasgow Arts Tent
10 a.m.: O'Malley's Luck
11 a.m.: Navan
12:30 p.m.: Jim Wearne
1:30 p.m.: 4 Shillings Short
2:30 p.m.: Wylde Nept
4:30 p.m.: Wylde Nept
Games of Strength and Tug-of-War
8 a.m.: registration
8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.: games
4:30 p.m.: athletic awards
Piping and Drumming Competition
8 a.m.: registration
8:30 a.m.: solo competitions begin
1 p.m.: pipe-band competition
4 p.m.: piping awards
Highland Dance Competition
8 a.m.: primary, beginning, and novice registration
9 a.m.: primary, beginning, and novice competition
10:30 a.m.: morning dance awards
12:30 p.m.: intermediate and premier registration
1 p.m.: intermediate and premier competition
3 p.m.: afternoon dance awards