The 34th annual Sonora Celtic Faire takes to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora from March 6 to 8, bringing lots of history and music to the Mother Lode.
The fairgrounds are overtaken by tartans, the sound of bagpipes and the clash of armor as the event welcomes numerous re-enactors, who roam the grounds immersing the crowd in the history of all Celtic people. Representatives from at least 13 clans are on hand in encampments that encourage exploration of a nearly forgotten time.
The event is also a showcase of Celtic music in all its forms, with Skerryvore, from Scotland, headlining in 2020. The group features brothers Daniel (on accordion) and Martin Gillespie (pipes, whistles and accordion), steeped in the Scottish ceili (social gathering) tradition of the Isle of Tiree. Combine the brothers with friends Fraser West (on drums) and Alec Dalglish (guitar and vocals), who have backgrounds in brass, wind and jazz bands, and the band mixes those styles with blues, folk and country influences. Later, Craig Espie (fiddle) and Jodie Bremaneson (bass) joined to complete the current lineup.
Seven Nations performs this year, too. The act that was founded in New York City boasts players from California, Toronto and Florida, who have crafted their own unique sounds that’s been heard on television in Public Broadcasting Service and CNN shows.
“Seven Nations is not your father’s Celtic band,” says a release. “With a passionate, tender and rollicking style that winningly veers from roots and folk to dance and fusion-rock, Seven Nations has earned a growing reputation as an adventurous band with a charismatic stage presence.”
The three-day weekend also features music from Celtcia, Tempest, Molly’s Revenge, the Black Irish Band, Brother, Michael Mullen, the Fresno Stag and Thistle Pipes & Drums, the Ripon Irish Bagpipe Band, Cooking With Turf, Glenn Morgan and more.
Full-contact jousting is again a crashing feature of the event. Knights squaring off atop trusty steeds have been very popular at the Sonora Celtic Faire since it was introduced in 1997.
“The audience will be captivated by the thrill of witnessing two large warhorses, racing at full gallop to a crashing finish, as knights drop their lances,” a release says. “The heart-pounding joust action will take place in the arena with the Queen of Scotland in attendance to make sure that things do not get out of hand with the masses.”
Mary Queen of Scots is on hand with her complete court and royal tents, and a large group of Viking warriors swarms the entire fairgrounds – with one large encampment situated away from the hundreds of Celts in attendance to highlight their history.
All forms of Celtic dance are celebrated, including Scottish folk and Highland dancing, and the ever-popular Irish step-dancing.
Authentic foods and beverages will be offered, and there is a Celtic Marketplace stocked with all manner of regalia suited to everyone from peasant tots to regal warriors.
“For the little ones at the Celtic Faire, there are always exciting activities going on, including family-fun stages of fantastic entertainment like fire jugglers, fire-breathing dragons, puppet shows, costumed fairytale characters and a Celtic-themed Children’s Area with games and crafts,” the release said.
Another highlight this year is the “famous” Whisky Tasting Experience, which includes a large new venue for tasting Scotch Whiskies that also features live music. Attendees sample many whiskies – both single malts and blends – and there will be stands throughout the venue selling Guinness and Harp beers and ales. Whisky tasting costs $30, and there are special workshops centered on sampling staged during the fair.
The event is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. March 6; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. March 7; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 10 at the fairgrounds at 220 Southgate Drive (off Highway 49), Sonora. There is also a Saturday Night Ceili from 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. March 10, with separate tickets priced at $20.
Admission prices range from $10 to $35 daily, or $125 for the entire event at sonoracelticfaire.com. There are also schedules and band biographies posted at the site.