By Laurel Munroe – Cape Breton Post
BADDECK – The World’s Biggest Square Dance lived up to its name Saturday night as the curtain fell on the fifth annual Celtic Colours International Festival.
More than 1,100 people donned their dancing shoes and made their way to the Victoria Highland Civic Centre for an opportunity to swing their partner and promenade to the music of some of the world’s best traditional players.
Ashley MacIsaac, Howie MacDonald, Carl MacKenzie, Jerry Holland, Glenn Graham, Wendy MacIsaac, Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton, Joey Beaton, Tracey Dares MacNeil, Tony McManus and Dave MacIsaac delivered foot-stompin’ dance tunes, while Ishbel MacAskill, Aoife Clancy, Haugaard & Hoirup, Patricia Murray, Gibb Todd and John Allan Cameron provided music between the sets, to allow the dancers – and the players – to catch their breath.
It was a fitting end to the nine-day festival, which saw more than 300 performers from six countries take part in 38 shows and dozens of workshops all over Cape Breton Island.
The final attendance figures have yet to be tabulated, but the majority of shows were sold out and artistic director Joella Foulds, of Rave Entertainment, couldn’t be more pleased.
“It’s been an amazing nine days,” she said. “Things went very smoothly.
The general atmosphere of the festival was great and people seemed very happy with the quality of performances and the artists they were seeing.”
Foulds spoke to visitors from several U.S. states, most Canadian provinces and parts of Europe during the festival.
“People are coming from all over – and they seem to be getting more educated over the years,” she noted. “They’re very knowledgeable about the music. Many of the performers told us the audiences were very receptive to what they were hearing and that’s a circle of success: the performers play better when they get that kind of response from an audience.”
The artists who travelled here to take part in the festival were overwhelmed by the hospitality they encountered in Cape Breton, Foulds said.
“It’s the volunteers and the local communities who make that happen,” she said. “They are the backbone of the festival and we couldn’t be happier with their support.”
Davey Henderson, of the Shetland Folk Festival, a 22-year-old festival on Scotland’s Shetland Islands, made his second trip to Celtic Colours this year
“Everything has been so wonderful,” said Henderson, who also attended the festival in 1999. “Cape Breton is just so beautiful and the people are so friendly and nice. Everything runs smoothly and we’re looked after very well.”
Henderson was on the lookout for potential acts to play at next year’s Shetland Folk Festival
“I saw a lot of great new bands. The music here is so good; it reminds me of Shetland, with so many younger people playing.”
Last year, Celtic Colours attracted audience members from 18 countries. More than 13,000 tickets were sold to some 9,000 people. The festival generated $4.8 million in economic impact.
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