Dayton’s Irish summer

Dayton’s Irish summer

Celtic Festival kicks off

By Andy Hertel

Photo: The Dayton Celtic Festival begins at 6 p.m. on July 25 at Riverscape MetroPark; photo: Bill Russell

Since its inception in 2002, the unmistakable sights and sounds of bagpipes, fiddles and Irish dance have taken over the stage at Riverscape MetroPark for one weekend each summer, and this year is no different as the United Irish of Dayton Celtic Fest arrives Friday-Sunday July 25-27. Free and open to the public, this annual festival kicks off Friday night from 6-11 p.m., reopens Saturday at noon until 11 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Headlining this year’s edition once again is Gaelic Storm, as the high-energy Celtic rock quintet tours in support of their latest album, The Boathouse. Since gaining initial fame with their appearance in the 1997 movie, “Titanic,” Gaelic Storm is the only band to appear in Dayton every year since the festival began. Having released a total of eight studio albums, along with a greatest hits compilation, they have garnered significant critical acclaim, with several albums topping the Billboard World Music charts.

“In 2011, we were closed early on Friday, due to terrible weather, and the resulting crowds on Saturday were the largest in our history,” explained longtime entertainment co-chair and trustee Bill Russell. “The crowd was so large, it stretched over the Riverside Bridge with people lining the bridge to listen to Gaelic Storm performing under the Riverscape Pavilion.”

Among this year’s other headlining performers include the DC metro-area-based Scythian, another band at the forefront of the modern Irish-folk scene. Nashville’s Music City Roots described this electrifying group as “what happens when rock star charisma meets Celtic dervish fiddling.” Also touring in support of a new album, Scythian’s enthusiasm is matched only by that of their many loyal fans in attendance each year.

“The Dayton Celtic Festival combines an authentic sense of community with a national caliber lineup and a powerful, first-class production,” musician and vocalist Alexander Fedoryka said. “We’re thrilled our Jump at the Sun album tour is bringing us back to the banks of the Great Miami!”

Additional major acts include the traditional group Full Set, festival debutants Socks in the Frying Pan and regional performers comprising festival staples such as Irish-Americana quintet Dulahan, the Celtic Academy of Irish Dance and Miami Valley Pipes and Drums. Irish American News’ “Best New Group” award-winner in 2012, Full Set combines youthful vigor with a conventional Irish sound and the group released their second studio album, Notes After Dark, in 2013. Regional band Miami Valley Pipes and Drums offers free bagpipe lessons to anyone interested in performing with them in the future, while the Celtic Academy offers both youth and adult lessons, and their dancers perform in regional, national and world competitions. The Celtic Festival has played an integral role as a springboard to success for many start-up bands and performers. 

“Socks in the Frying Pan are from County Claire in Ireland, and we will be their first appearance in the United States,” Russell said. “As we did for Teada and Slide, both now powerhouse Irish traditional music groups, our festival is their introduction to the United States market.”

Putting on a nationally renowned event every summer takes a great deal of behind-the-scenes planning and collaboration, but thankfully the festival’s extensive volunteer corps supplies a wealth of experience and enthusiasm each July. 

“I’ve been a volunteer for four years now, and wish I had been doing it for much longer,” Cincinnati resident and Dayton native Pip Rehg said. “It’s an incredible event and I’ve had a blast each and every year. When you can see all the intricacies involved with running such a successful festival, you just get a sense of pride being a part of it. My favorite part of volunteering is getting to help out backstage. It’s great to see bands like Gaelic Storm and Scythian, who have been with the festival for so long – they are welcomed with open arms as friends of the festival and community, rather than hired acts. It certainly makes for an incredibly fulfilling Irish weekend.”

In addition to a full weekend of music, the Celtic Festival also features an extensive array of Irish-themed merchandise vendors, traditional and American food booths and a wide selection of import and domestic beer on tap. Other activities include a 5K run/walk and 10K run Saturday morning, along with a Celtic breakfast and traditional Gaelic mass opening the festival Sunday. Also scheduled Sunday is an organized bike ride departing from Fifth Third Field at 8:30 a.m. 

“The biggest and best difference from other Irish festivals is we are a free event where anyone can come and enjoy the best quality Irish and Celtic music, dance, culture, crafts and food,” Russell emphasized.

Be sure to arrive early for best viewing, as the audience for headlining performers routinely overflows well beyond the confines of the main pavilion. Parking is available at adjacent lots throughout the downtown area.

The Dayton Celtic Festival begins at 6 p.m. Friday, July 25. The festival runs  Saturday, July 26 from  noon – 11 p.m., and Sunday, July 25 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. The festival is held at Riverscape MetroPark, 111 E. Monument Ave. For more information, please visit daytoncelticfestival.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Andy Hertel at AndyHertel@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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