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Bonnie Prince Charlie to Land at Olcott, N.Y.

© by George Bailey
Last year, quite by chance, I stumbled upon a unique heritage festival in the lovely sixties style village of Olcott on the south shore of Lake Ontario, only forty minutes from the Niagara border. I marked it in my calendar to make a return visit on the upcoming weekend of September 17th and 18th to visit the 11th Annual Niagara Celtic Heritage Festival.
     It matters not how you pronounce Celtic. Keltic or Celtic are both acceptable. This festival of Scottish, Irish and Welsh cultural celebrations began 1n Celtic Dancing 2000 after founders Philip and Beth Banks visited a similar festival in 1999 in Kincardine, Ontario.
     Philip Banks says, "It's was a wonderful experience. We decided then to create a similar festival to restore, preserve, and promote Celtic culture." If this year's festival is anything like last year, it's going to be a blast. In 2010, 10,000 people attended the event. The festival runs on Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm and Sunday until 6 pm. Admission on Saturday is $15.00 and Sunday $10.00. A weekend pass is $20.00. Children 12 and under are free. Parking is free.
     Highlights include Highland Games events including the Caber Pole Toss, Sheaf Toss, and Stone Throw. I enjoyed watching enactors who became immersed in the traditions and pageantry of the times. Asked why he did it, one replied, "It's tons of fun and I get to time travel." Whole families got into the act. It was interesting to talk to these enactors because they remained in the true characters whom they were portraying.
     I particularly liked the highland dancers who performed on the main stage. On the commons, knights were jousting, dressed head to toe in armour. Each morning, you see an enactment of the vessel The Black Pearl carrying Bonnie Prince Charlie to the park on the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Jacobite enactors from 1745 wait to greet the prince.
     The Grand Finale Concert on Sunday evening at the pavilion features, The Glengarry Bhoys and according to their brochure they are, "one of the greatest Celtic Rock groups around."

Awaiting Bonnie Prince Charles  Carousel Park  Cast Of Characters and Falcon  Celtic Spirit Pipe Band  Family Enactors  Jousting Kids Petting Pen  Lakeview Village Shoppes  Storytelling

     Numerous vendors sell everything from jewellery to hand-woven baskets. Kids can ride ponies, feed farm animals and the entire troupe can sit on bales of straw and listen to gripping narratives of the past told by accomplished story tellers.
     You can whittle away a full day at the festival but leave some time to also explore Olcott where the word, "quaint," must have been invented. There are no neon signs, floodlit gas stations, fast-food joints or department stores. But, there's plenty of parking, and it's free. It's my kind of place.
     Surprisingly, there is no shortage of things to do. The festival is the biggest event, however, in the early 1900's, this was the location of a large 100-room hotel that was constructed on the bluff. Memorable entertainers such as Louis Armstrong, Guy Lombardo, Jimmy Dorsey and Artie Shaw performed here. And this is where the Celtic Festival is held.
     If you have kids they'll get a kick out of the small Carousel Park, open on weekends until October 2nd. It's a unique "kiddy park," featuring a restored 1928 Herschell Spillman Carousel, five vintage kiddy rides and a 1931 Wurlitzer Band Organ. All rides are twenty-five cents.
     A nearby favourite, next to the small Olcott Light House, is the Lakeview Village Shoppes. It's a collection of a dozen or so gift, specialty and food shops located on a boardwalk overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario. Check out the lovely Olcott Marina where I hang out and pretend that I own one of the yachts.

Photo Credits
George Bailey

George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.

If you go
Niagara Celtic Heritage Festival: www.niagaraceltic.com or 716-778-5730
Carousel Park: www.OlcottBeachCarouselpark.org
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olcott,_New_York
Places of worship: http://www.yellowpages.com/barker-ny/...
Directions: Cross into the U.S. at the Niagara border & take Robert Moses Parkway north to Lewiston. Travel on Center Street (their main street) towards the Niagara River. Turn right on Highway 18F and go all the way to Olcott, just past Wilson N.Y. GPS user can punch in 5979 Main Street, Olcott. N.Y.

Travel Aid
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Maps (Google interactive map): http://maps.google.com/
Maps (Mapquest) U.S. & Canada: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp
Maps (Mapquest) World: http://www.mapquest.com/maps/main.adp?country=GB
Media Guide (local newspapers with current listings): http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/
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