The 2011 Celtic Gathering and Highland Games is in step to be the largest celebration of Scottish heritage since the Las Vegas Celtic Society first cued the music and merriment seven years ago.
The seventh annual festival is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, 9200 Tule Springs Road.
Festival staples of live entertainment, beer tastings, authentic food, artisan crafts, clan tracing and heavy athletics, such as hammer throwing and caber tossing, are the foundation of fun, organizers say.
New this year are plans for a competition of champion pipe bands from the W estern region and a Celtic Crown Feis, a traditional Gaelic arts and culture festival, thanks to a collaboration with Sharon Lynn's Celtic Crown Academy of Irish Dance.
Hundreds of dancers and musicians will regale throughout the day in preparation for entertainment headliners such as rockers the Young Dubliners and The Wild Celts. The ceilidh, "party" in Gaelic, is set to continue on Fremont Street after 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
"It's truly an international event brought to Las Vegas," said Brian Towers, president of the Las Vegas Celtic Society. "Even if you've been in the past, you can always look forward to seeing something new out there."
About 10,000 visitors flocked to the festival last year, Towers said. Organizers hope to break the record this year.
Children's activities mirroring the adult events also are planned .
Towers said the society is excited to return to Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs for the gathering.
"It's like a slice of Scotland out there," he said.
Ireland also will be represented.
About 400 dancers from around the western region of the country will gather to compete on six stages as part of the Celtic Crown Feis, a sanctioned event through the Commission of Irish Dance out of Dublin, Ireland. The feis will take place on the eastern fields Saturday.
About 30 dancers of all ages from Sharon Lynn's Celtic Crown Academy of Irish Dance will perform traditional Irish step dancing both days of the festival.
Founder and professional choreographer Sharon Lynn Rezendes said the blending of cultures truly makes it a Celtic gathering. The event reminds her of feis she attended as a young competitor.
"That's probably what I'm most looking forward to," she said. "It really is a family event like I remember growing up." All feis dance competitions are accompanied by live musicians, Rezendes said.
Off site, the 2011 Las Vegas International Tattoo will a tribute performance of representatives from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines with military and police bands from Scotland and Canada. The event is scheduled at the Thomas & Mack Center, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are on sale at lasvegasinternationaltattoo.com or facebook.com/lasvegasinternationaltattoo.
Dancer's from Lynn's academy will also be participating in the event. Lynn will also perform with a 16-member group.
"We're calling the weekend our Celtic Olympics," she said.
Tickets for the Celtic Gathering and Highland Games are $15 and $10 for seniors 60 or older, military personnel with ID and children ages 5 to 12. Children 4 or younger are free. Tickets can be purchased at lasvegascelticsociety.org/games/tickets.html.
Parking is free. No pets, save for service dogs, are permitted. For more information, visit lasvegascelticsociety.org.
Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at email@example.com or 477-3839.