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Folk rock and haggis found at Celtic festival
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Brian Sullivan, who organizes the Starbridge Music Festival with wife Donna, talks about how the festival got started.
Inspired by his travels in the Celtic music scene, Brian Sullivan wanted to start a festival of his own to celebrate the Scotch-Irish roots of many of this area’s residents.

So he and his wife, Donna, began the Starbridge Celtic Festival, first holding the event in Gainesville as the North Georgia Celtic Festival, then moving it to property they own off Starbridge Road in Lumpkin County, near Murrayville.

"We made a lot of friends in our travels, we’ve been to ... (and) played a lot of festivals, and so we wanted to put together (a festival) with the very things we have seen," said Brian Sullivan, lead guitarist and vocalist for Celtic folk rockers Emerald Rose.

Also, he said, the demand for Celtic bands isn’t as hot through the year as it is around St. Patrick’s Day, when everything is sprouting green.

"Celtic festivals in different times of the year give them a reason to stay together and a reason to get out and play," Sullivan said.

The Sullivans helped organized the Celtic festival at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville from 2002 to 2005.

"We really enjoyed doing that," said Donna Sullivan, also a chiropractor who practices on Starbridge Road.

The couple then moved the event to the 50-acre Starbridge Road property, known as Starbridge Sanctuary, which also serves as the site for the annual HemlockFest, an environmental music festival benefiting hemlock research.

The festival features Scottish and American foods, from haggis puffs and bridies (types of meat pastries) to favorites such as hamburgers and sandwich wraps.

Visitors also can experience a Celtic coffeehouse, browse through arts and crafts, and watch Highland bagpipers, Scottish fighting displays and a birds of prey show.

Scottish songwriter Jim Malcolm, guitarist and lead singer for Scottish band Old Blind Dogs, and Dahlonega-based Emerald Rose, will headline the event.

Malcolm was named Scottish Songwriter of the Year in 2004, the same year that the Old Blind Dogs received the Scottish Folk Band of the Year award from the Scots Trad Music Society.

He has twice performed for Prince Charles at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Emerald Rose has toured for the past 12 years across the U.S. and in Ireland.

The band headlined post-Oscar celebrations for the "Lord of the Rings" movie in Hollywood, and their original music has been used in movie soundtracks and on television commercials.

Starbridge features a five-acre lake surrounded by woods that "you can fish and swim in while you listen to Scottish and Irish music," said Donna Sullivan.

Festivalgoers might want to bring blankets and lawn chairs, as well as a swimsuit and sunscreen.

A Georgia fishing license is required to fish in the lake, and lifeguards will be on duty during the day.