Tussey Mountain’s Celtic Fest honors Irish, Scottish, Welsh traditions

If your idea of quality entertainment involves the phrase: “Hold my Guinness and watch me toss this telephone pole,” you’re in luck.

Tussey Mountain pays homage to all things Celtic — including traditional Scottish Highland Games and the most beloved of Irish beers — with its inaugural Celtic Fest on June 7.

“We’re expecting a wild time,” said Aaron Weyman, Tussey Mountain’s marketing coordinator.

Perhaps some of the wildest moments will come during the caber toss, a traditional event in the Scottish Highland Games. This event certainly isn’t for the light of heart — or the light of muscle. According to Heavy Scottish Athletics, an American organization that promotes and facilitates the so-called “heavy events” that are part of any traditional Scottish Highland Games, a caber is a, “a tree that has been cut and trimmed down so one end is slightly wider than the other.” Resembling telephone poles, cabers range from 16 to 22 feet in length and weigh between 100 and 180 pounds.

Approaching a standing caber, with the wider end upward, a thrower “hoists the caber up and cups the small end in his hands.” After taking a short run, the thrower “stops and pulls the caber so that the large end hits the ground and the small end flips over and faces away from the thrower.”

Although it may seem like a contest of who can toss the caber the furthest, distance isn’t as important as accuracy. Imagining that the thrower is facing 12 on a clock, a judge scores each throw for how close the smaller end of a tossed caber would be to the 12.

If the caber toss sounds intimidating, not to worry. Other games include a stone throw, tug of war, facial hair contest and a haggis-eating contest.

Haggis, which will be available outside of the contest for purchase from vendors, may not be for the light of heart, either. A traditional Scottish dish, haggis is made from a combination of sheep’s organs, fat, oats and seasonings, which are chopped and mixed together, then boiled in a sheep’s stomach.

Other traditional (and American-Celtic hybrid) fare includes corned beef and cabbage, pork shank and smoked turkey legs, as well as hot dogs and other kid-friendly foods.

Guests can wash down their haggis and corned beef with Irish draughts Guinness, Smithwicks or Harp, or Scotland’s favorite beer, Tennents Lager. Magner’s Irish Cider also will be available, as well as American-brewed Appalachian Jolly Scot.

Of course, any good Celtic fest must involve music and dancing. Pittsburgh-based Bastard Bearded Irishmen will headline the show. Rolling Stone Magazine recently touted these rockers as a “band to watch from Pittsburgh.”

“We took them up on that advice,” Weyman said, of the Rolling Stone mention. “They’ve got a lot of energy to them. They’re really gonna be pumping up the crowd.”

While the Bearded Bastard Irishmen offer Americanized Irish rock, in the vein of the Dropkick Murphys, traditional Celtic entertainment will come from local Irish/Scottish musicians Callanish, and central Pennsylvania-based Irish dancers Tir na Nog.

Tickets for the festival cost $10, or $30 for VIP tickets that include a whiskey-tasting session in the Lodge. Kids 12 and younger will be admitted free. Parking is $2.

While a first-time event can come with its share of surprises (for everyone involved), Weyman said this event will be one to remember, whether heavy lifting is your game or you simply want to sit back and enjoy the show.

“When the sun sets over Happy Valley, it will be a great spot to be,” Weyman said. “With games going on, music in the background … it’s something you can’t get anywhere else.”