Local Irish dancer takes top honours in her category at Eastern Canadian Oireachtas

WALKERTON – Emilia Judge-Zintel, 7, and her sister Stella Judge-Zintel, 5, brought home trophies from the recent Eastern Canadian Oireachtas (Irish Dance Championship).

The three-day event was held in Toronto at the end of October. The sisters competed on Oct. 30.

Actually, Emelia and Stella couldn’t stay long enough to accept their trophies – they had to head home, while their dance teacher claimed the trophies – just one more in a series of incidents that day. But despite car trouble, getting a last-minute ride with grandparents and arriving late, the two did brilliantly.

Emilia won top honours in her category – solo premier under-7, while Stella came in fourth in the under-5 category.

Students of Mary Foley, the two talented sisters live in Walkerton and take lessons at St. Paul’s United Church in Walkerton.

Foley said the competition has been held for 50 years this year.

Emelia and Stella had never even competed locally before entering the regional competition. Foley said Emelia is the youngest Walkerton person to have won an Irish dance championship.

Foley is based in Port Elgin and the girls attended classes there initially. They had the opportunity to perform in Kincardine in June, accompanied by live musicians.

“I was so focused!” commented Emelia.

After taking a break over the summer, they resumed lessons at a location closer to home.

Foley had previously conducted lessons at Victoria Jubilee Hall in Walkerton, which closed during the pandemic. After in-person activities resumed, she found a larger, more suitable space at the church.

Her students, including Emelia and Stella, will be performing at the Hometown Christmas Market event Nov. 18. The market runs from 4 to 11 p.m. The dancers are among the local entertainment that is sure to add to the holiday atmosphere.

Foley is the owner/operator of Celtic Academy Canada. This year marks her 10th year in Bruce County and 25th since establishing Celtic Academy in Erin, Ont. There are presently locations in Guelph, Erin/Hillsburgh, Orangeville, Hanover, Kincardine, Owen Sound, Southampton, Port Elgin and Saugeen Shores, as well as Walkerton. Celtic Academy can be contacted at 519-216-6647 or online at celticacademy.ca. For information, check the Celtic Academy Canada website.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times