Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Fireside Chat 

Bagpipes, Bonfires, and Celtic Storytelling

Give a pagan a bonfire, and he'll play you a song or tell you a story. At least that's what the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes would have you believe during its Bagpipes, Bonfires, and Celtic Storytelling this weekend.

"We talk about the presence of fire and why that's so important," naturalist Mark Knapp, who will be telling the stories, explains. "[Our event] started in the fall around one of the Celtic holidays, but a lot of people felt if we had it in the summer, it'd be a lot better."

That may have made it less true to the Celtic "fire festival" that marked the autumnal equinox, but Knapp isn't too concerned about pagan faith anyway. "I don't get too much into the religious end of it," he admits. "I try to get more nature-based. A lot of the pagan holidays are Celtic, and that's part of where it came from. And a lot of people like bagpipes, so that's part of it, too."

Displaying his pipes will be Shaker Heights police officer Tim Reed, who opens the night with a brief history of the instrument and a few well-known melodies. From there, it's a tennis match between bagpipes and stories in the firelight.

"We break it up," Knapp says. "I don't sit there and drone for two hours." In fact, he doesn't even use books, relying instead on cue cards that remind him of the salient points from over 1,000 stories he has collected. "I walk around and use my hands and my whole body. I don't stand up in front of people and do nothing. [Reed] runs around in a kilt; I sit there in my uniform and sweat to death."

A slight exaggeration, of course, but same as here in America, the Celts had a penchant for tall tales. "Some of it's like a tall tale, some of it's flat-out legend. They tried to explain certain things, but their magic usually has to do with nature."

And igniting big fires to better light the sprites and imps.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of Highlights

More by David Powers

Read the Digital Print Issue

November 17, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation