Bagpipe players in blue tartan march in three lines
The Hub City Highlanders and the Red River Pipes and Drums lead the Parade of Tartans on Saturday, June 2, 2022, at CelticFest Mississippi in Brandon, Miss. Photo by Lukas Flippo

Thousands Celebrate CelticFest Mississippi in Brandon

A woman in celtic makeup and clothes poses
Ami Giaise, a freelance hairstylist, practiced braiding hair into the rope-like strands (shown) beforehand so that she could wear her hair in that style when attending CelticFest Mississippi in Brandon, Miss., on June 3, 2022. Photo by Lukas Flippo

For a full gallery depicting the 2022 CelticFest Mississippi event, scroll to the bottom of this article. 

BRANDON, Miss.—Tom and Ami Giaise drew glances as they trekked down the sidewalk the weekend of June 3 and June 4 at Lakeshore Park in Brandon. Ami’s hair, styled into rope-like braids, reached well down her back, and a streak of red and brown makeup adorned her eyes like a mask.

Tom held a small imitation ax, painted black, and a metallic necklace hung around his neck and dangled over his upper chest near the rune symbol on his light tan top. Around his wrists were guards, bound in place with leather.

The couple were among the more than 2,000 people from Mississippi and beyond who attended CelticFest Mississippi this year, which took place on June 3 and June 4, 2022. Established in 1991, the festival celebrates Scottish and Irish culture and features a number of vendors, food trucks and artists selling goods that tie into those nations’ histories. Organizers also hold a live-music festival, a scotch and whiskey tasting, a parade and raffles that bestow prizes on winning visitors.

Some guests like the Giaises, whose wardrobes drew inspiration from the “Vikings” television series and took hours to assemble, attend the festival out of interest, despite not having notable ancestral roots to the region. Others, meanwhile, have familial ties they want to learn more about.

Robby Lindsay runs a booth with his son Aidan that offers sealed, printed surname crests and details on the family histories aligned with those last names. Lindsay started the business nearly 20 years ago after learning about genealogy out of personal curiosity.

“It started when I was interested in the history of my last name,” Lindsay said. His brother joined his research efforts and encouraged him to pursue this familial exploration as a business opportunity. The startup costs were high, Lindsay said, but both Robby and Aidan find running the business worthwhile.

“I just love meeting all the people and hearing all of their stories,” Aidan said.

Aidan’s older brother helped with the booth before him, but he can no longer assist due to his service in the military. However, Aidan hopes to continue the business once his dad stops pursuing it, he explained.

The annual festival invites athletes to participate in the Highland Games, a series of competitions based on historic Scottish sports like Scottish hammer and open stone. A row of white tents represent different families and clans, including the Clan Irwin Association.

The association represents multiple last names of similar lineage, and members pay $25 a year to access its historical information. Members can also participate in a DNA study to further the database of family lineages. The group also coordinates trips to Scotland to witness the lands their ancestors walked firsthand.

Sisters Teresa Tucker and Myron Proctor stumbled upon their Scottish family history by accident.

A man and four women in tartan pose for a photo
Members of the Clan Irwin Association pose for a portrait on June 4, 2022, at CelticFest Mississippi in Brandon, Miss. Photo by Lukas Flippo

“I was researching into my family to see about joining the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution),” Tucker said. “And I noticed that I had several family members with the last name Irvine who fought.”

Tucker and Proctor followed the surname back to Scotland and joined the Clan Irwin Association at a festival in Louisiana.

“These festivals help us get our name out there and encourage people to join the association,” Mary Erwin said. But more than anything, Erwin attested, events like CelticFest Mississippi serve as a touchpoint for Scottish and Irish culture, allowing people with and without those ancestries to participate in traditions and learn about histories heralding from those long-standing nations.

CelticFest Mississippi 2022: A Photo Gallery

Browse the rest of Lukas Flippo’s photo gallery below for a glimpse at some of the sights and offerings found at the annual festival. For more information on CelticFest Mississippi, visit celticfestms.org

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