Festivals and Frolics
In the land of the Bras d’Or, it sometimes
seems like the hills themselves are fiddling
a Celtic tune or singing a Gaelic song.
It’s hard to imagine a time when toes
aren’t tapping and bows aren’t
flying at festivals, workshops, classes,
dances, ceilidhs, frolics and kitchen parties.
In Cape Breton, the only area in the world
where Gaelic continues as a living language,
music, dance and storytelling are a way
of life. Looking for some authentic Cape
Breton culture? Check out the nearest community
hall – there’s sure to be someone
making musical magic on the local stage.
In summer, the Bras d’Or’s regular
festival schedule includes:
Féis a Chlachain,
in the village of Iona,
on the west side of the Barra Strait. This
1-day event, held each year in mid-May,
celebrates Gaelic Cultural Awareness Month,
with workshops led by local Gaelic singers.
Learn traditional “milling”
songs, and practice them at an evening “Milling
Baddeck Gathering Ceilidh,
in the village of Baddeck, on the north
side of St. Patrick’s Channel. Named
for a popular local fiddle tune, this summer
celebration of Cape Breton music runs every
night of the week in July and August,
at St. Michael’s Parish Hall on the
village’s main street.
Big Pond Summer Festival,
on the south side of East Bay. This week-long
celebration, held in mid-July,
features family entertainment, square dances,
workshops, and performances by some of Cape
Breton’s most well known fiddlers,
singers, and step and highland dancers.
Wycocomagh Summer Festival,
at the head of the Bras d’Or Lakes
on St. Patrick’s Channel. Held during
the third week of July,
this event features “Ceilidhs on the
Waterfront,” with traditional Scottish
and Mi’kmaq music and dance.
Highland Village Day,
at the Highland Village and Museum, a recreation
of Scottish settler life, in the village
of Iona. This annual festival
of Cape Breton and Scottish music and dance
is held on the first Saturday of August.
Féis an Eilein, at
Christmas Island, just east of
Grand Narrows on the south side of St. Andrews
Channel. The longest-running Gaelic festival
in Nova Scotia, and the first “Féis”
(Gaelic community festival) to be held outside
Scotland, this mid-August event
features workshops in Gaelic language, song,
fiddle and step dancing, and a Thursday
night “Milling Frolic.” The
Commun Féis an Eilein, organizing
body of the festival, also sponsors a series
of summer concerts featuring local Gaelic
singers. All events take place at the Christmas
Island Fire Hall.