The 10th annual Celtic Festival alights
By Emma Jarman
The sentiments of St. Patrick’s Day ring loud and true through the streets of Dayton during the United Irish of Dayton’s annual Celtic Festival. People dressed in green drink Celtic ales in the beer gardens, eat Celtic foods from street-side vendors, absorb Celtic melodies at the soundstages and give Celtic kisses in the name of the Irish (although some claim false heritage to sneak a smooch).
This year marks the 10th annual celebration of all things green and potatoes. In celebration of the close of its first decade, the festival will present much ado about Celtic immigrants and the impact they’ve had on the region, their music and also a commemorative free T-shirt. Hosted by the United Irish of Dayton, an organization known for their public displays of heritage, including their presence at A World A’Fair and sponsorship of Irish concerts, among other things, the festival will run Friday, July 29 (6 p.m. to 11 p.m.), Saturday (noon to 11 p.m.) and Sunday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) at the Riverscape Metropark.
Entertainment is what the event is known for, so let’s get to it. Headlining the soundstages this year is Gaelic Storm, a lively Celtic band known for their upbeat songs and downplayed notoriety (they appeared in Titanic… the movie). Friday, they will play shortly after 8 p.m. on the Guinness stage, and again Saturday at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. But don’t just look to the Guinness stage to provide all your entertainment through the weekend.
“We believe that music is the main draw,” said Maureen Comer, co-chairwoman of the festival. “The music also ranges from traditional Irish and Scottish music to pub music (very popular) to rebel music to Celtic rock. We balance the three stages to offer something for everyone at all times – no matter what your tastes.”
The three stages this year, the Guinness stage, the WDTN Channel 2 On Your Side Stage and the University of Dayton Continuing Education Stage, will juggle all sorts of acts including music by national and local bands like the Fuschia Band, the Elders and Fannigan’s Isle. They will also host alternate showings including storytelling with Cathy Jo Smith, Sunday at 1 p.m., a performance by the Celtic Academy of Irish Dance on all three days and What Happened Bridgie Cleary – An Irish Play, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on the UD Continuing Education Stage. Following scheduled festivities Saturday night, there will also be an after-party at Flanagan’s Pub, 101 E. Stewart St, with Bluestack (from Chicago) for a $5 donation. Bluestack is also scheduled to perform the festival Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
But, if you’re not so into foot stomping, kilt twirling tunes but still want to experience the festival (or just have something to do with the family that weekend), fear not, the Celtic can appease you. Sunday morning there will be an Irish breakfast held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Top of the Morn’n Café, on festival grounds. Fare will include all the Celtic combinations of bacon, eggs, cakes and scones you could possibly think of. There will also be a Celtic bike ride (wear a green helmet?) at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, and participants should be 15 minutes early in the Dayton Career Academy parking lot.
Comer describes entertainment new to this year’s festival including the bike ride, adding, “There will be an Irish wake display in the Cultural Area depicting a traditional Irish wake of the 19th century … We also have a beautiful handmade Celtic quilt raffle (designs are machine embroidered) that will be on display in our Cultural Area.”
All this fun and not only is it free, but you don’t even have to be Irish (or Scottish or Welsh)! An estimated 80,000 people gathered at last year’s festival, boasting the Celtic spirit. But, Comer points out, “Like St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone is Irish or Celtic, so too are all attendees at our festival.”
For the little leprechauns there is the ever-popular Children’s Area, back again. This year kids can build fairy castles, search for stolen pots of gold, play putt putt and get their faces painted in the children’s area. There may even be a scavenger hunt. The Cultural Area is also a good place to expose children to some interesting facts about Celtic heritage, said Comer. Just watch out for the bagpipe brigade, who will be parading the streets in their traditional gear playing impromptu traditional music sets to further heighten spirit.
And once you start feeling wholly out of place without a plaid pleated skirt (probably about five minutes into day one) swing on over to the Celtic marketplace on festival grounds to pick up a kilt from one of the vendors and be sure to wear it as the Scottish do. Help the United Irish of Dayton, as Comer puts it, “bring the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day to Dayton for three days of multigenerational music, dance, beverages and culture in the summer.”
For more information including a complete schedule and list of performers and entertainment, visit www.unitedirishofdayton.org/Festival.
Reach DCP freelance writer and
editorial intern Emma Jarman at