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National Celtic Festival 2012

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by Catherine Van Bergen (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer who lives on the Bellarine Peninsula. I enjoy finding new things to see and do in the beautiful area that I live in. I'm also a booklover- see my reviews at
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Do you fancy yourself to be a Lord of the Dance? Can you play a fiddle amongst the best of them? Do the vocal talents of the musical group Celtic Thunder make you swoon? Then I have the perfect event for you!

For the tenth year running, Portarlington will be hosting the National Celtic Festival, Australia's biggest celebration of all things Celtic. Every year, the small seaside township is flooded with thousands of enthusiastic people, keen to make the most of their Queen's Birthday Long Weekend, and embrace the unique culture, music and festivities that could only be associated with the Celtic people.

National Celtic Festival 2012
Portarlington has been home to the National Celtic Festival for 10 years

This festival completely transforms the usually quiet and sleepy town of Portarlington into a vibrant and spirited site of entertainment, and features Australian and international musical acts, dancing performances, and language workshops amongst a host of other interesting activities.

It's a full program, with many popular Celtic acts performing over the weekend, including the highly anticipated Breabach from Scotland and the Celtic Divas from Ireland. There will also be plenty of other performances throughout the festival (coming from overseas, and locally) and these will range in style from small intimate gigs to larger, rowdier concerts.

National Celtic Festival 2012
Breabach is one of the big international acts that will be performing this year.

There will be a variety of dance performances, including the traditional dance styles of Scotland and Ireland, and workshops where you, too, can learn to dance a jig. An experienced tutor runs each workshop, and anybody can get involved. Best of all, there's no extra cost, as the workshops are included in the price of your ticket. If you're not as interested in learning the particulars of certain dances, you can always attend a different workshop and learn something new. Among the different workshops running, there will be classes where you can learn the Gaelic language, traditional songs, poetry, as well as instruments including the fiddle, the guitar, and bagpipes.

There is plenty of stuff for the kids to do too, with workshops, children's entertainment and a big social dance that people of all ages can enjoy.

There will also be several competitions where the best pipers, drummers and limerick creators will have the chance to win from a great range of prizes. The third annual National Golden Fiddle Awards will also be on- you can play witness to some of the best fiddle players in Australia, as they show their talents onstage.

National Celtic Festival 2012
This traditional Scottish band performed at the festival last year.

Of course, a festival can't be complete without food and drink, and the National Celtic Festival is no exception. There will be a variety of traditional foods available to purchase, as well as unique Celtic delicacies, local produce and Guinness on tap (if you're so inclined). There will also be a huge undercover Celtic market, which you can browse through, featuring over 80 stalls of handmade arts and crafts. People without a ticket to the festival are welcome to enter the marketplace for a gold coin donation.

National Celtic Festival 2012
One of the performances from last year's festival.

This festival begins on Friday evening and continues all the way through to Monday afternoon, so you're guaranteed to enjoy the many festivities on offer. Even if you can't stay for the entire weekend, the program is so jam-packed that you won't easily get bored in the time that you're there. Best of all, most of the event is heated and undercover, and each site is within walking distance of each other, so you won't have to face the cold Autumn chill too much while you travel between venues.

You can buy tickets on the day from the onsite ticket marquee, or you can pre-purchase tickets online at or at GPAC (Geelong Performing Arts Centre).
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Why? To celebrate everything Celtic in one of Australia's biggest cultural festivals
When: Queen's Birthday Long Weekend, from Friday 8 June until Monday 11 June, 2012
Where: Portarlington, Victoria
Cost: Adult Weekend $125, Youth (15-17yrs) Weekend $50, Children (0-14 yrs) free, Day tickets $85, Concession also available for weekend passes
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