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Celtic Faire draws thousands to popular event despite triple-digit heat

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By the time the gates opened at 11 a.m. on June 19 at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds, the temperature had already topped 100 degrees. But that didn’t stop die-hard Celtic enthusiasts from turning out in droves.

The 35th Annual Celtic Heritage Celebration returned to Angels Camp for the first time in several years, bringing people from all over to participate in dance, drink, food and fun.

“The majority of people who bought tickets were from Sacramento,” said the event’s organizer Patrick Karnahan. “Angels Camp and Sonora were number five on that list.”

Over the course of the weekend, about 4,200 people attended the faire, though Karnahan said they were hoping for closer to 7,000 based on online ticket sales. Still, it’s a good number despite the blistering heat, especially on June 19.

“I’m amazingly happy with the number of people that came out, even in 108-degree weather,” Karnahan said.

People sought relief from the heat in the numerous shade trees around the fairgrounds or in the event halls, where vendors were set up and bands played various kinds of Celtic-style music. Not all of the halls had air conditioning, but Karnahan and staff worked together to create makeshift swamp coolers to bring inside temperatures down.

“It was still warm in there,” Karnahan said. “It made it hard on vendors because they rely on computers to do their work.”

Those vendors came from places like Los Angeles, Arizona and Colorado. There were around 70 in all, which was on par for year’s past.

One of the reasons for returning to Calaveras County to hold the event instead of in Tuolumne as they have done for the past few years was the parking. There’s enough space at Calaveras County’s grounds to accommodate ample parking, Karnahan said. In Sonora, the event relied on sponsorship from Black Oak Casino to provide shuttles to transport people from various parking lots around the town.

The other reason for returning was local fairground management.

“This fairground’s manager (Laurie Giannini) is wonderful to work with,” Karnahan said. “More importantly is the staff. They were helping us bringing fans in. They would be the first to say, ‘What can we do?’ They were very accommodating.”

Typically, the event is held in March. Last year, it was held the weekend of March 7-8, right before everything was shut down due to COVID-19, which is the same reason it couldn’t be held in March of this year. The reason organizers decided on the June date was based on last year’s temperatures, which weren’t anything as bad as the scorching heat felt this past weekend.

“I can just imagine how (the turnout) would have been if the weather has been temperate,” Karnahan said. “It’s good to know going into March of 2022 how many people will turn out.”

Next year’s event will be held in the same location on March 11-13. For those that missed this year’s faire but don’t want to wait until 2022’s event, Karnahan said they will be holding a two-day event in October celebrating All Hallow’s Eve and Day of the Dead. On Oct. 30, a Celtic New Year event will have similar offerings to the Celtic Faire, and Oct. 31 will be focused on the Day of the Dead.

Overall, Karnahan is happy with the event and how many came out to support it.

“To me in my mind, we were successful,” he said.

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