Central Texas

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

On the shores of Lady Bird Lake, Celtic history and culture come to life. Rows of Highland dancers in bright kilts take to the stage while vendors along the path sell everything from pastries to Scotch eggs. The air fills with the sounds of Irish fiddles and Scottish bagpipes. This is the Austin Celtic Festival.

The 18th annual Austin Celtic Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday at Fiesta Gardens near Lady Bird Lake. The festival will feature authentic Celtic music, dance, crafts and sports.

Funded in part by the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, the festival is the largest gathering devoted to Celtic culture in Central Texas and seeks to celebrate and preserve Irish and Scottish history through the arts.

“Above all, I will say that, when the story of many nations are asked to be told, they will go to the library and pull down great books,” said Donnelle McKaskle, Austin Celtic Festival director. “But when the story of the Celts are told, we tend to go to the shelf and take down our fiddles.”

The Prodigals, an American band whose sound fuses punk music with traditional Celtic melodic elements, is among the musical groups playing at the festival. 

“We meld those roots, which is what I and our guitarist grew up with, along with the wonderfully mad musical anarchy that is New York,” said Gregory Grene, the band’s frontman.

Grene said folk music has the power to make history and culture accessible to modern listeners.

“The music acquires the force of subversion,” Grene said. “And that power stays with the music, even after the politics behind it has changed.”

The festival will also feature historical reenactments, in which historians set up reconstructed artifacts and activities in a historically accurate manner so observers can have a vivid sense of what ancient life was like.

Texas Coritani, an Iron Age living history group based in Central Texas, will set up a Celtic campsite on festival grounds to educate festivalgoers about the life and history of ancient Celts.

“Our members, as living historians, assume the role of interpreters rather than actors,” Texas Coritani member Jeff Scharp said. “This affects our displays and interactions to be much more personal instead of being like a cold museum or store window.”

Careful work goes into Texas Coritani’s setup process to ensure an authentic experience.

“We’ve narrowed our focus on a tribe in the East Midlands,” Scharp said. “It allows us to have an expert knowledge of time and place by having materials [and] items that go together, rather than a mish-mash of random Celt-ish stuff.”

Clay Johnston, inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School, speaks to media after the new medical school’s ground-breaking ceremony on Monday morning. The Erwin Center and Cooley Pavilion site will be relocated in order for the new school to be built on the intersection of 15th and Red River streets.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

The University launched construction of the Dell Medical School on Monday during a groundbreaking ceremony with state, city and University officials in attendance.

The medical school will feature an education and administration building, a research building, a medical office building and a parking garage, totalling 515,000 square feet. The predicted cost is $334 million and will be located at the intersection of 15th Street and Red River.

Seton Healthcare Family, which runs several hospitals in Austin, committed $295 million last year to build a teaching hospital for students enrolled at the medical school. The school is scheduled to accept its first class of students in 2016. 

At the ceremony, President William Powers Jr. asked the speakers at the event and community members in attendance to write one word on a poster board, summarizing their individual hopes for the medical school. Powers wrote, “Innovation.” 

“If we all express our hopes and then pull together to make those hopes a reality, we will have a true treasure in our community and a great new source of health and healing,” Powers said.

Clay Johnston, dean of the Dell Medical School, said he wanted to focus on advancing medical practices in the new facilities. 

“We have a responsibility to take advantage of our newness, to test out different ways of doing things that could become models for the rest of the country,” Johnston said.

State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who has supported the addition of a medical school in Austin, said the school will transform the Central Texas area. 

“We’re all going to experience this transformation — it will be big,” Watson said. “Really, it probably had to be big. I don’t know that this community would have come together for something incremental, something folks might or might not notice as they went about their lives. We invested in something that will change what it means to live in Central Texas.” 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa attended the event. In February, Cigarroa announced he is resigning as chancellor in order to practice medicine full-time as head of the pediatric transplant team at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“It, fundamentally, really brings a focus, at least for me, that education saves lives,” Cigarroa said. “It’s extremely meaningful because I well know how lives are going to be impacted for the better as a result of this.”

Construction for the medical school will result in various road closures, while the University works to complete multiple construction projects simultaneously. The Erwin Center, along with the Denton A. Cooley Pavilion site, on Red River will be relocated in the next six to 15 years to make room for the medical school.

Because of the extensive construction on Red River, the road will be closed between 15th Street and the Erwin Center between May and December. 

Powers said he hopes the medical school will contribute to advancing the Austin community. 

“It’s a great day for Central Texas,” Powers said. “It’s a great day for health.”