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Walking Through 2000 Years of History

11th annual Potomac Celtic Festival echoes with music, dance, storytelling, poetry and more.

More than 20,000 people turned out for the 11th annual Potomac Celtic Festival last weekend.

They were inundated with music, dance, storytelling, poetry and 2000 years of Living History. The aroma of fish and chips, barbecue, fish, corn cakes, sausages and tarts permeated the air. Fresh squeezed lemonade and Harp and Guinness beer were among the thirst-quenchers of the day.

The Celtic Heritage Corner highlighted the Cornwall culture and its Cornish bards. The festival also featured Ireland, Scotland, The Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, Asturies and Galicia.

Bob McLaren was on hand to sign up anyone who wanted to join the Clan MacLaren Society and learn more about their roots. "I'm proud of my heritage," he said. "There is an inherit curiosity about the past. This gives them a chance to learn, points them in the right direction."

Bespeckled with a full white beard, he wore a kilt like many of the men at Morven Park in Leesburg. He has set up a tent or "convened" at the festival for the past 10 years.

In a clearing in the woods, storyteller Fiona Powell spun wool on her spinning wheel and told a yarn. Afterward, Kaitlin Ahearn, 9, of Leesburg, sat on a bale of hay and listened intently. Kaitlin, wearing a green dress and a shiny green crown, shared what she thought was the best part of the story. "When they rode to the fairyland," she said.

"Because I've never seen a fairy before," she explained.

THE MASSED BANDS in full costume played bagpipes, flute and drums and filled the air with "Amazing Grace" and other songs.

Terrie Deane of Elkton, Va., said this was her first time at a Celtic celebration. Her maiden name is Meadows, which is part of the Caithness society. "My father always told me that we were from Irish descent," she said.

She and her partner Harry Reif were spending the weekend at Lansdowne when they heard about the festival. Deane pointed out that Reif's descendants were not of the Celtic origin. "He's Romanian and Hungarian," she said.

"The other side of the water," he added.

As Nessa and Rona York and Lily Short worked on crafts at the Kids Tent, Chip York of Lovettsville talked about why he and his family and friends dressed in Celtic attire. "We belong to the Preachain Clan," he said. "We like people to know the early Celts were not as barbaric as some people think they are or as the Romans portrayed."

Randy Short chimed in. "They even wore pants."

"Some of them," said York, donning a kilt.

Janet Thatcher and Ben Crenshaw, owners of the Enchanted Glyph, sold historical jewelry. It was their first time as vendors at the festival. She wore an unusual hat, not of Celtic origin. "When my friends asked where they could find me, I told them to look for the hat!"

She wrote literature about the jewelry, which Crenshaw made. "We've enjoyed the level of interest and the delightful people," he said.

Mark Hartman of Culpeper stood with David Bell of San Diego, selling kilts. "I started out as a customer," Hartman said. Now he flies around the country and joins Bell at festivals. "It's a hobby," he added. He works full time as a biologist for the Vermont Department of Transportation.

Saturday proved to be a sunny afternoon with a slight breeze, and Sunday's clouds and early rain did little to dampen the festival.