You can leave the time-traveling DeLorean at home and still experience a different era this weekend.
The 29th annual Sonora Celtic Faire returns, bringing the best of Ireland, Cornwall, Scotland, Wales and more to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds. The popular festival attracts more than 12,000 visitors each year, who roam the living-history camps, listen to live Celtic music, meet members of royal courts, watch jousting knights and find their clans.
Event founder and coordinator Patrick Karnahan said the diverse mix of Celtic nations and time periods the festival represents is part of its broad appeal.
“It’s a multicultural event, not just Irish and Scottish, it’s Cornish, Welsh, all the Celtic nations of old that date back thousands of years,” he said. “At the festival, we portray it through music, through dance, through cultural and ethnic foods. We have over 1,000 re-enactors who depict different periods of Celtic history.”
The festival, running through Sunday, includes live music by some of the most popular nationally and regionally touring contemporary and traditional Celtic bands, from Barleyjuice to Wicked Tinkers to Golden Bough and more. Traditional Celtic dancers, storytellers and street performers roam the grounds, as well.
For guests, it’s also a chance to immerse themselves in the past while visiting with blacksmiths, artisans and even queens. One of the biggest draws each year is the live combat and jousting done by knights in armor in the arena.
For the participants – members of regional history re-enactment guilds – the festival has become a welcome way of life.
Hundreds of costumed performers representing more than 2,000 years of Celtic history take part each year. They include more than 50 members of the Dark Boar Vikings group, based in the Central Valley.
Fourteen-year-old Stockton resident Wraith Gum takes part in the group with family and friends. Together they set up their camp and educate people about the time period.
“We go to different fairs and teach kids about the Viking age,” she said. “We have different types of weapons, we do weaving and crafts, life skills and fighting. We like to show off a bit. It’s really just a place I like to hang out and be myself.”
Members of the Saint Andrew’s Noble Order of Royal Scots guild, a nonprofit educational group portraying the royal court of Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1562, similarly view their re-enacting as a way of life. Escalon resident Jerri Lynn Levers and her husband, Jeffrey, have been in the guild for about 15 years. For the past six, she has portrayed Mary, Queen of Scots.
“You can’t do this without a good passion for history. We try to impart a little knowledge each time we go out,” Jerri Lynn Levers said. “This (festival) is one of my favorite events each year. Part of it is the people and also because of Sonora. Everyone is respectful and enthusiastic.”
Sonora Celtic Faire
WHEN: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive, Sonora
TICKETS: Saturday: $28 general, $10 ages 6-12; Sunday: $25 general, $10 ages 6-12