Celtic crush

Annual Dayton Celtic Festival returns

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Celtic/Klezmer/World music headliners Scythian will perform at the 2015 Dayton Celtic Festival; photo: Dayton Celtic Festival Staff

Some events in Dayton become an institution over the years, and the annual United Irish of Dayton Celtic Festival has definitely become one of them. In fact, the festival only continues to grow, with last year’s fest drawing a record crowd of roughly 80,000 people over the course of the three day celebration of all things Irish and Celtic, showing an obvious interest and demand that predates its debut back in 2002.

“The catalyst for [The Dayton Celtic Festival] was a demand from several Celtic groups that we have such a festival in the Dayton area, similar to what other cities have,” DCF Publicity Co-Chairman Shawn Kain says.  “It’s grown a great deal over the years, with the addition of stages, entertainment acts, children’s area, fitness activities and sponsorships.”

Now in its 14th year, the festival continues to supply Daytonians with first-rate activities and entertainment for people of all ages. According to Kain, the reasons for the festival’s growing success are many.

“It provides the area with free entertainment, with several national and local/regional bands performing Celtic music and dancers,” Kain says.  “We also have cultural activities, authentic Celtic food, beverages and merchandise and much more.  People of all incomes can attend because it’s free admission, and it really brings the whole Dayton area and surrounding areas together.”

The music at each year’s Dayton Celtic Festival has become a centerpiece for packing in the crowds, drawing well-known national and international artists as well as local and regional musical staples that have been featured at DCF in the past. The 2015 edition features five world-class headlining bands. Perhaps the splashiest name playing this year’s fest is California’s Gaelic Storm, a Billboard-topping Celtic world music band perhaps best known as the steerage band performing in the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”

Other headliners include DCF favorites Scythian who play a mixture of Celtic, Klezmer and world music with a high energy, punky flair; traditional Irish music trio Socks in the Frying Pan; Ireland’s We Banjo 3 which performs an intriguing mix of Irish music with old time Americana and bluegrass influences; and the Tri-Tones, another Irish band making its Dayton Celtic Festival debut that will delight audiences with accordion, fiddle and guitar-propelled melodies. Add in about another dozen local/regional Irish/Celtic music and dance troupes, and you’ve got a smorgasbord of sensory pleasures to take in.

“Our entertainment is selected based upon our desire to provide a broad mix of Irish and Celtic music appealing to all ages and audiences,” says Bill Russell, a United Irish of Dayton associate who also helps organize each year’s DCF.

“We have four stages this year and encourage attendees to sample music and dance from all stages and are sure you will find something to your liking.”

Speaking of entertainment, the Dayton Celtic Festival offers much more than just music and dance for one’s amusement over the course of the three-day extravaganza. Some of the other featured attractions include historically-based cultural demonstrations and exhibits, a Celtic Marketplace, daily Parade of Kilts, a 5K Run/Walk on Saturday morning, and on Sunday, a DCF Bike Ride and Celtic Breakfast, as well as a special Gaelic Mass.

“Celtic includes Ireland, Scotland, and Wales,” Kain explains. “We have a large population of people who are of Irish, Scottish and Welsh ancestry, and this gives them a chance to experience activities reflecting their heritage.”

The 2015 edition of the Dayton Celtic Festival also has some new additions that will only add to the seemingly endless supply of attractions that the United Irish of Dayton brings to the streets of downtown Dayton.

“We have beer tastings and we also have some new cultural exhibits and demonstrations this year, such as Come Back to Erin: Irish Travel Posters of the 20th Century from the Ward Family Collection and the Milwaukee Irish Festival, as well as demonstrations by the Miami Valley Knitting Guild on Aran knitting,” Kain explains. “The Aran sweater is an integral part of Irish heritage. Festival attendees can see centuries-old embossed patterns come to life stitch by symbolic stitch. Miami Valley Knitting Guild is a friendly group of local knitters who offer a standing invitation to knitters of all skill levels, whether you are a master knitter or haven’t yet learned a knit from a purl.”

Voted as Best of Dayton 2014 by Dayton Magazine, the United Irish of Dayton Celtic Festival promises once again to be a slam-dunk good time for families, music fanatics, partiers and everyone in between.

“Anyone who wants to enjoy a top-rated festival in late July and wants to experience Celtic culture for free should attend,” Kain says. “We welcome festival lovers from all over Ohio and surrounding states and regions. We guarantee that if you come once, you’ll want to come back again!”

The 2015 United Irish of Dayton Celtic Festival will take place this weekend at RiverScape MetroPark, 111 E. Monument St., in downtown Dayton. Hours are Friday, July 24 from 6 p.m.-11 p.m., Saturday, July 25 from noon-11 p.m., and Sunday, July 26 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The festival is free to the public. For more information, please visit daytoncelticfestival.com. 


Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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