In his childhood, Rob Eberhardy attended numerous cultural events in his home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He could learn about Italian folk dancing, German food, Mexican Mariachi, Irish hurling, and learn about Polish folk art throughout the year- just to name a few things! When Irish and Scottish cultural events started popping up in Western Montana, where Rob currently resides, he felt inspired by these festivals- much as he felt when he was a little kid. Upon returning from one such festival in the Bitteroot, Rob asked himself one simple question; why not do a festival in the Flathead Valley? From then on, the thought nagged Rob in his sleep and throughout his daily life. He slowly put forth the idea in social circles and the reaction from businesses and community members was good but not fanatic. After some thought, the festival was destined to end before it began, there not being enough interest and dedicated people to pull it off. Then, Rob’s grandfather passed away- Carl Robert Bruce (his Scottish heritage namesake) – and the planning continued with new fervor, in his honor. After speaking to other major Celtic groups throughout Montana, the first seeds were planted for a minor event at Flathead Valley Community College. The event included some Irish dancing, bag piping, singing of traditional Irish songs, a potluck, and raffle. This small event filled the meeting room at the college past its 300 person capacity and the obvious message from the community was heard loud and clear; we want a Celtic festival! Seven months later, they had one.
The festival was established only because a group of about a dozen wonderful people, including Rob’s wife Shelley, got involved. It is meant to be sustainable and not for profit and, in 2017, 501c3 status has been obtained. It’s an event for everyone to come and enjoy themselves in a safe and culturally accepting environment. The Flathead Celtic Festival grows every year and thrives only because the community in the Flathead Valley is spectacular in effort and support, and it will run as long as people want to see a caber thrown, an Irish dancer perfect a reel, or talk about their family heritage.