This Celtic Colors Festival is a marathon of 250 events and 45 concerts, 9 days long around 33 communities throughout Cape Breton Island, This is wonderful festival promoting the Celtic roots of the Island and showcasing the wonderful music that is well known around the world.
On the east Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton is a scenic Island known worldwide for the famous Cabot Trail. The island is steeped in Scottish History, and even has the ‘Glenora’ the only single malt whisky distillery in North America, and a Gaelic College at St. Anne’s where the Gaelic language is still taught along with the bagpipes and the weaving of the tartans.
The Scottish culture and traditions are strong and even today Celidhs (kitchen parties) are familiar all across the island particularly in the winter months when weather isolates the island. Its relationship with Scotland is obvious in the names of the places, surnames and road signs and of course the music.
Hundreds of years ago the Province of Nova Scotia was settled by refugees from the Scottish Highlands and islands, many settled in Cape Breton and the Gaelic culture they brought with them survived. Approximately 25,000 Gaelic speakers settled in Nova Scotia from Scotland in the 1770s. Gaelic endured even under pressure from Canada's English speaking majority. Cape Breton’s road signs are printed in Gaelic and English.
Today younger generations make learning the language a priority and help keep Scottish traditions like fiddle music, step-dancing and piping alive. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 people speak Gaelic across Nova Scotia. The isolation of Cape Breton especially in the winter months has preserved traditions that came with the original settlers, but that have since declined in Scotland itself.
Traveling the island to visit the concerts in various community centers, halls and churches across the island it gives you a chance to see the island as well as enjoying the various elements of the festival. The festival is held mid October each year the same time of year as the fall colors are in full bloom, so it makes for a wonderful experience all around.
Travel the Cabot Trail, visit the many museums, enjoy the concerts and festival events and take in the wonderful scenery and if you are lucky you could even see a moose or two. However, the festival is not just for the tourists, but the locals and people from across the surrounding Provinces come to enjoy the music, the warm hospitality and the culture.
For the duration of the festival dedicated volunteer drivers will drive the Musicians around the Island to all their concerts and events and will sell their CDs at the concerts. Any small amounts they make from the proceeds along with support from Lakewind Sound Studios are given towards a grant for a new, young, up and coming Cape Bretoner to record their first CD and start their music Career. The Frank Sampson ‘Big Sampie.’ award is named after a member of the Festival Volunteer Drivers Association. These drivers are an integral part of the festival, they are proud of their work and wear their badges with pride. They contribute a great deal to the festival and attain almost the same status as the artists.
Buddy MacDonald one of Cape Breton’s legends, writes heart warming songs that have you singing them weeks later. During the festival he hosts the Festival Club at St Anne’s every night, and is an inspiration to all the young artists around him.
Cape Breton music is distinct and is meant for dancing, it has a strong melodic beat, and even the fiddlers and pianists will stamp their feet along with the music as they play. Of course you have the highland dancers and step dancers that often accompany the music. Many of the fiddlers themselves are step dancers and it is not unusual for them to step dance while playing the fiddle at the same time.
The concerts are a mix of local artists along with Celtic Artists from the rest of Nova Scotia, and the surrounding Provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and even some from as far away as Quebec. The festival even attracts Celtic artists from as far away as Scotland and Ireland.
Rita MacNeil is a local legend with her unique voice and I have known Natalie MacMaster since she was a teenager when she traveled around with our Travel Trade Shows. I have a wonderful memory of Natalie on her 19th birthday playing the fiddle whilst sitting on the shoulders of her uncle as he played the piano. All this while out on a boat on Lake Erie in Toronto celebrating the successful conclusion of Travel Trade Event with the historic Bluenose.
The venues for the Festival vary in size, the atmosphere is electric and the smaller venues more intimate. Community meals are often held close to the venues, some show off their local delicacies. All in all between the concerts and the community meals it really brings everyone together and makes for a wonderful atmosphere.
The festival hosts a Guitar Summit where some of the best come together on one stage, locals such as JP Cormier and Dave MacIsaac join the likes of Tony McManus, John Doyle and Tim Edey. They all provide backing for each other and it makes for a memorable performance.
The Irish and Scottish are well represented adding fiddlers, concertinas, harmonicas and bagpipes to the mix.
Baddeck is the most convenient place to stay put for the duration unless you choose to move around the Province. It is well located in the center so many of the concert locations and festival activities can readily be reached. The Festival Club takes place nightly during the festival at the Gaelic College in St Anne’s, about a 20 minute drive from Baddeck and a free shuttle bus is laid on for those wanting to get to and from.
The Festival club is a great place for mixing and meeting informally with the artists. Here the artists play informally with one another and experiment with their music.
The Celtic Colours International Festival has created an economic boom for Cape Breton. The festival takes place mid October each year attracting thousands from the Island and elsewhere. Every year Celtic Colours measures the economic impact using surveys and standard economic impact models and accordingly the impact of the festival is more than $15 million.
The Hospitality and Tourism sectors all generate a great benefit from the festival and it has extended their season. Many small businesses and artisans indicate that Celtic Colours is their busiest time of the year. The festival also contributes to the visibility and revenues of artists, venues, and community groups throughout the island. International talent spotters come from all over the world and book many of the artists. Many local churches and halls owe the upkeep of their buildings to the Celtic Colours. The festival and its programs contribute significantly to the quality and sustainability of many communities on the island.
To really appreciate the festival you have to try it for yourself.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Avril Betts, I am originally from England and now a Canadian Citizen, I have over 25 years experience in all aspects of Travel and Tourism, including running an online agency for over 13 years. I holds a CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator) an internationally recognized accreditation and in 1996 hosted the president’s wives luncheon for the G7 conference.

I have co-chaired Atlantic Canada Showcase an International Travel Trade Show, managed 450 volunteers for the Tall Ships Visit in July 2000, and was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia. In 1988 I founded the Country Inn Association in Nova Scotia still going strong today. I have been involved in numerous Travel and Tourism volunteer activities throughout Atlantic Canada and across Canada.

As an experienced speaker I have spoken and presented seminars to large and small audiences for many years on subjects ranging from Marketing and Sales and Life Skills to Tourism, Travel and Real Estate, and operating an online Travel business.

As a recognized tourism expert I am accustomed to working with tourists and passing on my knowledge of the various destinations to help them make the most of their vacations.

Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or travel inquiries.