The idea of the Celtic festival first came from the original committee as a tool for promoting the Australian Standing Stones in Glen Innes. And someone who has been there from the very start is local resident Raelene Watson.
Over the years the festival has seen many changes, including the length and content of the event, Ms Watson said.
“Friday afternoon was the official opening, Friday night the tartan ball,” she said.
“Saturday morning was the dawn service, followed by the street parade, then entertainment at the Stones.
“Saturday night there was a concert at the Services Club and Sunday morning Celtic church services, national ceremonies at the Stones, and kirking of the tartan heralded the end of the weekend.
“How much that has changed since 1995.”
In 1996 committee members put forward a grant application for three new events including the famous sheep dog trials, strongman event, and a Celtic art day.
“We were successful in this grant, and we still have the sheep dog trials and strongman event still running,” Ms Watson said.
“This also gave us new funding for promotions and the event began to draw more crowds.
“Another event was the tug-of-war [and] we had a couple of state and national titles held here.”
As the 2017 festival gets underway, it will see a number of ‘firsts’ for the 25th anniversary of the Australian Celtic Festival.
The Standing Stones will provide a spectacular backdrop to the festival’s inaugural fireworks display.
The fireworks are scheduled to take on off Saturday night around 10pm, following the Damien Leith concert, and clear skies are predicted at this stage.
“There should be a few Celtic showers on the Friday, followed by a fine weekend,” festival committee chair Lara Gresham predicted.
The coloured lights raining down on the historic Standing Stones will be a spectacular sight.
The Standing Stones have also recently received new flags –raised for the first time recently and which will stand tall throughout the festival.
The Isle of Man flag, the flag of NSW and the Australian flag were among those which will now fly as a permanent fixture at the local tourist destination.
“These will stay here as a permanent monument,” Standing Stones Management Board chairperson Judi Toms said.
While many of the original committee members are now gone, the Australian Standing Stones Management Board has the Rock of Remembrance for those who served for 10 years.
“Without the foresight by these people there would be no festival for Glen Innes to be proud of,” Ms Watson said.
Australian Standing Stones Management Board Chairperson Judi Toms agreed the festival’s success was highly attributed to the foresight and commitment of those involved in the very beginning.
“Just the foresight of those people who had the idea to start with, work with the Celtic Council of Australia and bring it to fruition is amazing,” she said.
Pipe bands, dancers, strongmen, knights of Camelot and even a Celtic wedding are just a few of the events planned for this year’s festival.
One of the acts includes the City of Brisbane Pipe Band.
“This will be my second trip to the Celtic Festival but the Pipe Major, Peter Hurwood, has been many times with another band and he enjoyed it so much that he encouraged us to go,” secretary and piper Charlie Elliott said.
The band, formed in 1950, attended in 2015 and has a whole range of melodies which members are preparing for this year’s festival.
“We’ll be doing out full band repertoire and we’ve got some novelty pieces … we’ve got the usual pipes and drums as well as pieces with pipes playing interesting melodies,’’ he said.
“We hope to put on a good show.”
The City of Brisbane Pipe Band is organised to play two shows on the weekend of May 6 and 7.
And for all those romantic festival goers looking for some tear-jerking entertainment – a traditional Celtic-style wedding will also feature at the festival.
Winners of the “Tie The Knot – Celtic Style” competition Caitlin Wilton and Jason Nicholson will marry within the Australian Standing Stones during the festival.
The Melbourne couple have been engaged for five years and have a very special request from anyone who wishes to volunteer.
The pair said they want their rings to be presented on a sword.
“We would like any festival goer that may have a sword to assist us on the day,” Mr Nicholson said.
“We are keen for festival goers to come and be a part of it,” Ms Wilton said.
Festival committee chairperson Lara Gresham said the committee was delighted with the response to this unique event for the second year in a row.
Last year’s wedding united local lovebirds Naomi Bain and Bob Blair.
“We would like to extend our thanks to everyone who entered,” she said.
The wedding will be held on Saturday at 11am.
The best in Celtic fashion will be on show at the Official Australian Celtic Awards Night at the Glen Innes and District Services Club.
The inaugural Celtic Fashion Awards are the first of their kind in Australia, as far as Ms Gresham is aware.
It is another first for a festival that has proved to be a popular attraction for a quarter of a century.