Don’t sell yourself short if you plan to visit next weekend’s three-day Sonora Celtic Faire. Think of it like a sort of pop-up Disneyland of the Celtic world.
There’s simply too much to do and see to pack it into just one day, according to fair organizer Patrick Karnahan.
“It’s almost impossible to see the entire fair (in) one day, that’s why I tell people to come all three days,” Karnahan said in an email interview. “Friday is dedicated toward history and education, so there’s so much to learn about the Celtic cultures. Saturday and Sunday, you get to see the actual performances of hundreds of different acts, including bands, jugglers, dancers, re-enactor clans, marching pipe bands, Highland games and fantasy characters for little children, including a fire-breathing dragon, and it goes on.”
The 29th annual festival celebrates the cultures of all Celtic lands, including Ireland, Cornwall, Scotland and Wales. There will be 10 stages of live music, dance, fire shows, jugglers and magic, along with a host of traditional Celtic food and drink, including Irish stew, haggis, Cornish pasties, shepherd’s pie, plus a Scotch and Irish whiskey-tasting room and a Guinness Beer pub.
Also showcased will be 3,000 years of Celtic history with 1,000 costumed performers in events such as full-metal jousting on horseback, armored foot combat competitions, Scottish Highland sword duels, encampments, army battles, Mary Queen of Scots’ Royal Court and more. Genealogists and historians will be on hand to help people of Celtic heritage learn more about their history.
The festival is expected to draw about 12,000 people to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora between Friday and March 8, if mild weather holds out all weekend.
Among the perennial favorites at the event is the live jousting, as well as veteran festival band Wicked Tinkers, Karnahan said.
“The jousting on horseback usually brings in close to 6,000 people viewing,” he said. “That event is two sessions a day. Second biggest would be the band Wicked Tinkers. This band has 18,000 likes on Facebook, they have a huge audience that follows them all around the West Coast.”
Among some of the new music and attractions this year:
▪ Celtic rock band Barleyjuice from Philadelphia. The fair will mark the band’s first trip to California, according to Karnahan. “They’ve been around for a long time and write a lot of their own songs and they rock the house. Their biggest hit song is called ‘What’s Up Yours’ which has to do with what men wear or don’t wear under their kilts.”
▪ Music group Black Brothers, from Dublin. “They write a lot of their own music,” according to Karnahan. “Their sister Mary Black gained fame by doing more avant-garde progressive music but (the brothers) stuck with traditional Irish music.”
▪ An increased foot combat contingent. “We introduced it three years ago and now we have over 30 fighters,” said Karnahan. “This is all foot combat, they use real swords.”
▪ This will be the first year the Celtic Faire will include more than 100 vendors selling traditional Celtic goods, making it among the larger Celtic marketplaces on the West Coast.
Aside from a Friday night concert featuring Barleyjuice, the Sonora Celtic Faire is a family-friendly event and includes activities for children such as storytellers, actors, kids games and, of course, that dragon.
“What makes ... the event so different than other types of events is all the Celtic cultures (being) brought together,” Karnahan said. “Not just the Scottish Highland Games or the Irish Faire thing, but the whole Celtic world and that there are so many different things to see and do and experience.”
Reach Bee staff writer Pat Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SONORA CELTIC FAIRE
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 6, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 7, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 8; Friday night kick off party 7 to 11 p.m.
WHERE: Mother Lode Fairgrounds, 220 Southgate Road, Sonora
TICKETS: $6-28 with weekend passes $30-$60; Friday concert, $15. Tickets sold in advance and at the door.