Ancient battles, living history will return to Sonora Celtic Faire

Jousters will wage battle at the Sonora Celtic Faire.
Jousters will wage battle at the Sonora Celtic Faire. Submitted by Patrick Karnahan

Jousters, performers, food vendors and others will go all medieval on Sonora next weekend.

The annual Sonora Celtic Faire returns to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds Friday through Sunday, March 10-12, complete with the only West Coast showing of the International Ultimate Jousting Championships.

The jousting event – something Celtic Faire organizer Patrick Karnahan likens to the “MMA on horseback” – falls under the extreme sport category, according to a fair press release. It’s not a choreographed show, it’s an actual battle for the best among the few who participate in “hard-core, full-contact jousting.”

Riders will travel from across the globe to the Sonora competition, which features armor-clad sportsmen on large draft horses. They will attempt to unhorse each other for points with full-tilt hits, using solid wood lances. Jousters will do battle in a 3,000-seat arena at the fairgrounds.

In addition to jousting, the Celtic Faire again will host the “Battle of Nations,” another extreme sport that’s all about foot-combat. Fully armored “knights” will battle it out using real metal weapons from the period in both one-on-one and melee bouts.

The Sonora fair is a living window into 2,000 years of Celtic history each year. Along with the armored combats, visitors can walk through a first-century Celtic encampment, see Roman soldiers, Viking raiders, Scottish Highlander camps and visit the throne of Mary Queen of Scots.

Entertainment also comes in the form of music each year, including modern Celtic bands Celtica and Wicked Tinkers as well as more traditional groups such as Cooking with Turf, Molly’s Revenge, Golden Bough, Banshee in the Kitchen and Black Irish Band. Marching bagpipers also will make their way through the fairgrounds along with dancers.

Other performers include magicians, jugglers, a sword swallower and fire wizards. For children, there will be a storybook village with characters on hand.

In addition, the fair features a Celtic marketplace with hundreds of crafts people, artisans and importers. There will be plenty of food and even a special whiskey tasting for the adults. Whiskey tasting samples are $20 for eight tastes, $25 includes a commemorative glass. There will be three categories of spirit blends: Scottish single malts, Scottish blends, and Irish whiskeys.

This weekend will mark the 31st Sonora Celtic Faire, which is expected to go on, according to the press release, “rain, shine or snow.”

Sonora Celtic Faire

When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, March 10-11; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, March 12

Where: Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Drive, Sonora

Tickets: Presale tickets are $10-$20; $15-$25 at the gate