Kilts As An Expression Of Celtic Pride In Michigan

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Kilts an expression of Celtic pride at Michigan Irish Music Festival

Published: Saturday, September 15, 2012, 7:45 PM Updated: Saturday, September 15, 2012, 7:47 PM

10227749.png By Andrew Dooley |


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MUSKEGON, MI – Men and several women in kilts peppered the grounds Saturday at the Michigan Irish Music Festival, some standing in music tent crowds others in lines for food and drink or sitting in the shade.

11571293-large.jpgAndrew Dooley | MLive.comKilted friends Rich Canniff, Ray Veen and Adam Reatini at the Michigan Irish Music Festival Sunday at Heritage Landing in Muskegon.

The pleated Celtic garment was on display at the second day of the festival, worn by Scots-Irish Americans hoping to reconnect with their heritage, those looking to have fun and even a few hardcore kilt aficionados.

Musical acts scheduled to perform Saturday night included Gaelic Storm, The Elders, The Kreellers and Seamus Kennedy. Sunday's events will begin with a 9 a.m. Catholic mass followed by music and cultural events throughout the afternoon. Seamus Kennedy is scheduled to perform the last concert of the festival tomorrow starting at 5:15.

With the weather bright and sunny with a high of about 70 degrees, Heritage Landing was packed with thousands who came for the music, food and family-friendly activities. For the men it kilts, their outfits were just another way to get into the festive mood.

"You don't need a kilt to feel Irish. I love everything to do with the Irish and this festival: the music, the food, the people," kilt enthusiast and Rothbury resident Rich Canniff said. "But, I love my kilt. I mow the lawn in it, I was married in it, I've even slept in it – OK maybe I passed out."

Canniff came to his seventh Michigan Irish Music Festival with similarly kilted friends Ray Veen of Ravenna and Muskegon resident Adam Reatini. Although Reatini is not Irish, he said the kilt and the festival made him feel part of the experience.

Another group of friends clad in tartan made their way to Heritage Landing from Grand Rapids. Matt Constant and Dave Hardy wore homemade kilts created by Hardy's fiancé, Nancy Mulick.

Constant said he's only partially Irish American, "not a ton, just enough," but that wearing the kilt to his third festival made the day better. Hardy initially tried to get out of wearing the traditional garb, Constant said.

"He showed up at my place in the morning wearing jeans and I was like, 'Oh no, go get it out of the car,'" he said.

Kilts, particularly the heavy-duty canvas Utilikilt, were the means by which Grandville resident Jim Dewalt Jr. first became deeply involved in Celtic culture. He bought his first kilt at the Alma Highland Games in 2005, the same year he attended his first Michigan Irish Music Festival working at a booth selling Utilikilts. Since attending his first festival, he's made celebrating and participating in Scots-Irish culture a big part of his life.

"I just fell in life with the culture. I only worked the first (festival) because I realized how much of the festival I was missing being tethered to that booth," he said. "I like wearing a kilt, I get attention in a kilt and my wife likes me in a kilt."

Dewalt said the festival had been "good so far" and that he and his wife were looking forward to seeing Gaelic Storm, The Elders and Blackthorn perform.

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