Celtic Festival Draws Thousands

Celtic Festival Draws Thousands

Washington, D.C. resident Kurt Carroll stopped in Loudoun County last weekend to get a two-for-one treat at the ninth annual Potomac Celtic Festival.

"It's fantastic. To be Irish and Scottish, it's nice to go to one festival and get both," said Carroll, who was dressed in a kilt and white shirt on Sunday for the two-day event. He stood at the Mackay Clan booth, which had information on his own heritage and was one of 70 booths on Celtic clans and societies for genealogical research. The booths circled the parade field, where the massed bands assembled together for six main performances and other musicians and dancers performed.

Nearly 60 juried vendor booths with Celtic wares and goods for sale were scattered about Leesburg's Morven Park. These caught the attention of Tim Selgas of Ashburn. "The arts and crafts are true to the heritage. It's not random stuff. It's Celtic," he said.

The festival displayed the cultures and customs of the Celtic nations, including Ireland, Wales and Cornwall, and featured Scotland in 2002.

"It's better this year because this year it's Scotland," said Peter McElwain of Walkersville, Md., a Scottish-American dressed in a red MacBain kilt and a black tank top as he volunteered at the Clan MacBain booth on Sunday. "It's close to home, and there's lots of vendors and a lot of musicians."

THROUGHOUT THE DAY, marching pipe bands and Celtic musicians performed on nine stages, dance troupes demonstrated Highland dancing steps, athletes showed Highland sports and games, and poets and storytellers gave workshops. Another 10 living history encampments provided a glimpse of Celtic village life from 50 BC to the 20th century.

"There's so much to do, it's hard to do it all in one day," said Barbara Ryan, president of Barnaby Productions, Inc. and co-founder of the festival with Bernard Argent, vice-president of the company. "We have more music than anyone possibly can take in."

"It concentrates on entertaining people, rather than selling something," Argent said. "People sense that we at the festival are making it fun for them, making it entertaining rather than getting money out of their pockets."

Last year, the event attracted 22,000 visitors and about the same number or a few more this year, according to initial estimates.

"It was the most successful festival event ever," Argent said, adding that several of the bands received standing ovations and vendors set records, selling more items than they had in past years. The night festival, which started three years ago, brought a record crowd with an estimated 700 to 800 people attending, he said.

"We are new to Loudoun. We heard about it, and it seemed like a good time," said Laura Letchworth, who moved to Ashburn six months ago. "It's nice that it's here in Loudoun, and we don't have to truck to Fairfax or the district where the typical fun stuff happens."

"It's great. It's the biggest one we've been to so far," said Chris Anderson of Roundhill.

Next year's festival on June 14-15 will feature the United States, the largest Celtic nation in the world, Ryan said.

The non-profit Barnaby Council sponsored the festival.