Celtic Colours: Our Celtic roots are showing

By Keith MacDonald – The Cape Breton Post

Toes are tapping across Cape Breton and will continue to do so this week as one of Canada’s premier musical events provides a memorable cultural experience to all who attend its medley of events.

Last Friday, the 15th annual Celtic Colours International Festival kicked off in Port Hawkesbury with a hugely entertaining show and is now in full swing in venues throughout Cape Breton.

Close to 350 artists from Cape Breton, Canada, the United States, Ireland and Scotland are performing in 45 shows being held in 33 communities during the 12-day event. It is extremely difficult to pick which concert to go to due to the shear number of talented and entertaining acts.

Listening to amazing live music in unique venues is not the only opportunity that Celtic Colours offers. There are also music workshops, a visual art series, community meals, participatory events, music lectures and presentations, storytelling events, and numerous outdoor events. Plus, to top it all off, there is the wildly popular nightly Festival Club at the Gaelic College in St. Anns. Performers converge at the end of their day to jam and entertain non-stop into the wee hours of the morning.

 Since 1997, the Celtic Colours International Festival has featured hundreds of musicians from all over the Celtic world and attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Cape Breton. Over the years, artists have travelled from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Brittany, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Cuba as well as from all across the United States and Canada. They make the annual autumn journey to make lifelong memories with the finest of Cape Breton’s musicians, singers, dancers, storytellers and tradition-bearers.

As Cape Breton’s signature event, Celtic Colours has put the island on the Celtic map. As home to one of the few remaining living Celtic cultures in North America, Cape Breton is the ideal location for such an event. What makes the festival so popular and enduring is the authentic experience that visitors simply cannot get anywhere else in the world. Every corner of Cape Breton comes alive to host events and welcome visitors and locals alike.

Cape Breton needs more signature events like Celtic Colours. World-class festivals built around our culture and authentic tourism offerings provide an overall experience that is essential in order to attract today’s travellers. Right Some Good, the Bras d’Or Lake Festival, and Show of Force are local events developed over the past year that have gained followers and continue to attract visitors to Cape Breton.

For Celtic Colours, the numbers are impressive. In 2010, over 15,000 people attended the community cultural events and just under 18,000 tickets were sold to concert-goers travelling to 33 communities around Cape Breton. The festival attracted 6,214 off-island visitors who came from every province and territory in Canada, 50 American states and 19 other countries. International visitors continue to increase and in 2010, four per cent more Cape Breton residents came out to concerts, contributing to the audience experience.

Celtic Colours has a significant economic impact with total estimate expenditures (excluding ticket sales and transportation to Cape Breton), of $6.2 million. People are travelling from community to community spending money on gifts, eating at restaurants, staying in accommodations, renting cars, and injecting dollars into the economy during a time of the year that was considered the shoulder of the tourism season.

So be sure to book some tickets at one of the few venues that have not already sold-out and get your toe tapping shoes shined up, because you are not going to want to miss this year’s Celtic Colours International Festival.

Keith MacDonald is executive director of the Cape Breton Partnership, an organization of private sector and public leaders formed to create partnerships, capitalize on opportunities and build a stronger Cape Breton.

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