The fabric of a civilization is woven by traditions.

Cultural customs include annual feasts, religious rituals or celebrations marked by dancing and revelry.

They may also involve chasing a wheel of cheese down a hill or the tossing of a large fish.

At the Maine Celtic Celebration in Belfast, the community will gather for a weekend’s worth of ancient traditions — or at least entertaining events that are destined to become traditions.

The annual event celebrates the rich Celtic heritage found in the area. “Celtic people and history are tied into Maine having a Celtic celebration seemed like a good idea,” said Ron Braybrook, one of the event’s volunteer organizers.

Food vendors, live music, workshops and games will fill the downtown waterfront and nearly all of the activities are free to the general public.

Friday night’s Benefit Dinner at The Boathouse kicks things off with plates of fish and chips — or chicken and chips — live entertainment and a specially brewed Celtic beer from Marshall’s Wharf Brewery. The dinner begins at 6 p.m. and tickets are $20. Proceeds from the meal benefit the Celtic Celebration and help ensure that this lively event returns year after year. Tickets will be sold at the door, if available, and can also be purchased at Out of The Woods in Belfast or by calling 338-2692.

Saturday’s fun begins at 8 a.m. at the starting line of the Celtic 5K road race. The race begins at Belfast High School, where last-minute racers can register between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m. Registration costs $15. The “relatively flat” course leads runners and walkers through the historic and picturesque Belfast neighborhoods and is an ideal way to prepare for the day’s round of events and entertainment.

At 9 a.m. the parade starts marching from Waterfall Arts Center. At 10 a.m. music flows from the main stage, courtesy of the Maine Highland Fiddlers. Live music continues all day with the likes of Old Grey Goose (11:05 a.m.), The Milliners (12:10 p.m.), Frank Taylor (1:15 p.m.), The Colin Grant Band (4:45 p.m.), Long Time Courting (6:05 p.m.) and Prydein (7:45 p.m.).

There are also workshops at the Boat House, including a fiddle workshop (11 a.m.), bones workshop (12:30 p.m.) and bodhran workshop (2:30 p.m.) where attendees are encouraged to “bring along yer favorite dead goat.”

At Steam Boat Stage, the entertainment ranges from a Celtic breeds dog show (10:30 a.m.) to Amy Robbins’ stories and songs (12 p.m.). An array of accordions takes the stage at 1 p.m. during the accordion expo, and local men strut their stuff on the catwalk during the Men in Kilts Competition. The competition features men in traditional Scottish garb, modern versions and anything in between, according to Braybrook. “It’s a beauty contest for guys in kilts,” he joked.

Celebration attendees willing to get a little dirty can enter the mud flats tug-of-war at 10:30 a.m. or the cod toss relay at 3 p.m.

But one of the more eclectic and increasingly popular events of the celebration is the New World Cheese Rolling Championship, where participants chase a 5- to 8-pound wheel of cheese down a hill. The illustrious winner walks away with the winning title and the wheel of cheese (a gift from the State of Maine Cheese Co.). “Anything that rolls down a hill is good to chase,” said Braybrook. He noted that organizers got the idea from a similar event held annually in Gloucester, U.K.

There are various heats for men, women and kids. “Sometimes it’s quite a tussle, people fighting over (the cheese wheel) at the bottom of the hill,” Braybrook said. “There’s nothing serious about it. It’s all in fun: The prize is a wheel of cheese!”

Cheese-chasing hopefuls need to register by 2 p.m. Saturday to participate in the races, which begin at 3:40 p.m. Spectators need to have their cameras ready.

Sunday morning boasts the Highland Heavy Games at Steam Boat Landing, beginning at 8 a.m. Hearty men and women from Maine and away compete in a round of games including the hammer throw and caber toss.

The events might inspire folks on the sidelines to tackle some heavy games of their own, including the wheelbarrow races at 12 p.m. and the Isle of Mann three-legged race at 2 p.m.

Back at the main stage, the Belfast Bay Fiddlers start the day’s music off at 10 a.m., followed by Boghat (11 a.m.), Prydein (noon), Frank Taylor (1 p.m.), Long Time Courting (2:15 p.m.) and Session Band (3:30 p.m.).

Throughout the weekend, vendors will offer grub ranging from fish ‘n’ chips and specialty sausage to coffee, doughnuts and free lemonade.

While most events are offered free to the public, organizers welcome donations.

“We’re a nonprofit run on a shoestring budget from one year to the next,” said Braybrook. Attendees thrilled by the cheese roll, men in kilts competition or live fiddling are encouraged to donate if they can, ensuring that the Celtic Celebration remains a tradition for decades to come.

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 822-4056 or at:

[email protected]