MODESTO — It'll be like olde times again ancient times, really as the Sonora Celtic Faire returns this weekend with jousting, Highland games, music, food and more.
The 27th annual event kicks off today and runs through Sunday at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora. It celebrates all Celtic cultures, including those of Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and Wales.
New to the fest this year is a medieval martial arts tournament, run in three rounds like a boxing event. Combatants will use real swords and full suits of armor.
"If you like the movie 'Gladiator,' you're going to love these matches," event organizer Patrick Karnahan said in a press release. "It's like knights gone wild."
The event will be a complement to the annual jousting shows on horseback that will take place twice daily in the fairgrounds arena.
On the music stages this year will be some old favorites, along with a band new to the event, Celtica.
Celtica combines bagpipes with drums and a rock style along with some bombastic flare via fire juggling and flamethrowers on the instruments.
Other bands on the fair's four music stages will be mainstays Tempest, Wicked Tinkers, Black Irish Band, Black Eyed Dempseys, Golden Bough,Avalon Rising and more.
The fair expands to Friday this year with a family day that will include living history and demonstrations, a full jousting show, Viking battles and sword fighting. Also set are bagpipe workshops, music and dance.
Friday night, the fair takes on an adult-oriented theme with a musical kickoff party featuring the Celtic band Tempest.
Saturday and Sunday, Karnahan promises a "Celtic Disneyland" and a "feast for the senses."
Jousting, a foot combat tournament, music, dance, juggling and magicians, bagpipe bands and a large battlefield for Vikings, Romans and early Celt action will be part of the weekend program.
There will be 118 vendors, artisans and Old World craftsmen, along with Highland games, whiskey tasting, a children's fantasy area, medieval games and information on clans and area societies.
Today fair hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a $5 entry for children, $10 for adults; entry for the evening's kickoff party, which begins at 7 p.m., is $15. Saturday's fair runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and tickets are $10 for children and $20 advance, $25 at the gate for adults. Sunday's hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with tickets at $10 for children and $18 advance, $20 at the gate for adults.
The Mother Lode Fairgrounds is at 220 Southgate Drive in Sonora. For more, go to www.sonoracelticfaire.com.