Organizers of the 11th annual Potomac Celtic Festival spent 11 months preparing for the event, scheduled to run this weekend in Leesburg.
"You have to book entertainers, vendors and crafters ahead of time," said Dave Boyd, treasurer of the Barnaby Council for Celtic Studies. "The board meets at least once a month, and there's a lot of phone calls and e-mails in between."
Organizers also make reservations for blocks of hotel rooms and plane tickets. Boyd said the biggest expense is the entertainers' food and lodging. They also have to apply for permits and handle the publicity.
"It is a lot of commitment, and the board I work with is amazing," Council President Cindy Marlow said. "Basically, it's 10 people who spend an incredible amount of time as board volunteers to put together a two-day festival."
The all-volunteer Council runs the festival and sponsors seminars, mini-concerts and scholarships during the rest of the year. About 22,000 people attended the annual event last year. Of the 300 volunteers, about 20 have been part of the festival since its inception. Barbara Ryan and Bernard Argent, founders of the event, are members of the Iona, one of the headliner bands.
Boyd said several people take a week off from work to set it up. The physical set up starts two weeks before the event.
He said their goal is to make the festival different and more exciting each year. They choose a different country or culture to feature each time. This year, special entertainment and information will be provided about Cornwall. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. t o 7 p.m. on June 12, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., June 13, at the Morven Park International Equestrian Center in Leesburg. The $15 entrance fee has remained the same for six years.
THE FESTIVAL CELEBRATES all Celtic nations: Asturia, Brittany, Cornwall, Galacia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Whales.
The council invites different musicians, crafters and clans. "People tend to think they belong to a certain clan, your tribe, your family," he said. Boyd said he uses the colors of the Boyd clan and that of his grandmother Lindsey's clan and wears a tartan. "Everyone has one, a hunting, dress, ancient or modern tartan. It is worn in the kilt itself."
Marlow said her children's father's family name is McClure, which is a sept or subgroup of the clan MacLeod. She said the festival is popular because Americans are searching for a connection to their roots. "This is a magnificent way to explore them. Even if you have trouble finding your roots on paper, Celtic must be there somewhere," she said. "I'm into the sharing of this culture," she said. "It is something that has fascinated me."
Marlow commended Leesburg and Morven Park for embracing the festival.
Cheryl Kilroy, president and CEO of the Loudoun Visitors and Convention Association, said the festival represents a big boost to the county's economy. Daytrippers, tourists who spend a day in Loudoun, spend an average of $404 a day, she said. Overnight visitors spend an average of $961 a day and stay about three days. "Even if someone comes out for the weekend, it's going to be a significant impact," she said. "They've done a great job at promoting overnight stays for the event."
Kilroy said Loudoun has 29 festivals annually. "Our objective is to increase the volume of day visitors and convert the daytrippers into overnight visitors."
THE POTOMAC CELTIC Festival features continuous live ethnic music and dance on eight stages, a juried craft market with 50 exhibitors, reenactment of Celtic history, Scottish games, bag pipes, drama, poetry, storytellers, authentic foods and more.