Joust This: Celtic Fairs Rock

Similar to Renaissance fairs, Celtic festivals are an entertaining way for the family to spend the weekend and learn about other cultures.


Renaissance festivals have become a tradition in many cities and towns throughout the United States. They all boast a historical experience that transports the participant from modern American life, back to the days of knights, royal courts and medieval musicians. When your area’s Renaissance festival just doesn’t cut it anymore, where do you turn to for historical entertainment and massive turkey legs intended to be eaten without utensils? Look for a local Celtic festival.

Celtic fairs are much like their Renaissance counterparts: Fair-goers are encouraged to get into the spirit by sporting period-appropriate outfits, and just like the Ren fair, Celtic fairs are filled with booths of good food, great crafts and fun for the entire family. While they are indeed similar, Renaissance fairs focus specifically on the Elizabethan era and cover a greater geographical region. Celtic fairs, on the other hand, span the generations but only for the Celtic peoples.

Even difficult-to-please youngsters will be so busy being entertained that they won’t even realize the educational aspect of the festivities. Boys can try their hand at archery and other knightly skills, while girls can celebrate their inner-princess with a pretty, new head wreath of flowers and ribbons. For kids who need to burn off some extra energy, many festivals offer kids a chance to compete in their own Celtic games competitions.

Sonora Celtic Faire  

I recently attended the Sonora Celtic Faire, one of the best known Celtic fairs in the United States. Hundreds of actors and visitors gather for three days each March at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora, Calif. A total of 10 bands, all of whose music is rooted in various Celtic traditions, played on three stages to dancing fans. Other entertainment included Highland and Irish step dancers, bagpipe bands and one of the most popular shows, jousting.

The faire involves celebrating the traditions of the Celtic nations, modern-day Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany and Cornwall. Vendor booths are filled with Celtic and medieval souvenirs, like jewelry, masks, clothing and more.

If you’re afraid of a too-authentic Celtic culinary experience from “Ye Olde Food Court,” you’ll be glad to know there are plenty of edible options besides pigeon casserole. Traditional Celtic food like meat pies stood side-by-side modern fair food, like hot dogs and nachos. Parents were able to eat some spicy sausage while kids cooled off with decidedly un-Celtic shaved ice.

Celtic Classic  

Almost every U.S. state has its own version of a Celtic festival. One of the largest in the country is the Celtic Classic, held in Bethlehem, Penn. For the past few years, this particular celebration has hosted the U.S. National Highland Athletic Championships where competitors vie to be the best caber tosser, or Scottish hammer thrower, in the country. The Celtic Classic also showcases gastric athletes in haggis-eating competitions. Dates for the 21st Annual Celtic Classic in September have yet to be set.

North Texas Irish Festival   

Claiming to be the “Largest Gathering of Irish in the Southwest” is DallasNorth Texas Irish Festival. The three-day festival welcomes more than 45,000 guests to Fair Park, making it the park’s second largest festival after the Texas State Fair. The North Texas Irish Festival began more than 25 years ago as a way for musicians to celebrate Irish music. Now, it has grown to include more than 100 vendors such as “Blarney’s Celtic Market Place,” “The Plaid Uniq-orn” and “North Texas Caledonian Pipes and Drums.” On eight different stages, visitors can watch world-famous Irish bands perform, or listen to guest speakers on such topics as “Celtic Songs in America: Recycled and Parodied” and other workshops.

No matter where your Celtic festival is located, you can be sure that these fairs will delight and inspire the imagination of every family member. Whether Dad tries his hand as a blacksmith, Mom decks herself out in period Celtic garb, or the kids attempt to impersonate the village idiot, everyone will have something to enjoy until next year’s Celtic celebration. 

Destinations: Sonora, Bethlehem, Dallas

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Arts and Entertainment

User Comments

Another Celtic Festival in California The Celtic Festival in Highlands Park in Ben Lomond, California is another great event. I brought my brother a Kilt from my visit to Scotland, and he plans on wearing it there this year.

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