Irish music is always the big draw at the Dayton Celtic Festival. However, the event — presented by United Irish of Dayton at RiverScape MetroPark in Dayton, Friday through Sunday, July 27 through 29 — continues to expand its other offerings.
The free festival features workshops, vendors, food, beer, children’s activities and Sunday Mass. Returning favorites include the Bushmills Irish Whiskey tastings at 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, the Celtic breakfast from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday and Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. Special guests include authors Cindy Thomson and Terence O’Leary and storyteller Cathy Jo Smith.
“The Celtic breakfast and Gaelic Mass are big staples every year,” said Shawn Kain, who has handled the festival’s marketing and publicity since 2004. “We’re fortunate to have the Mass, which is set in Gaelic and English. Whenever they say anything in Gaelic, they come back and say what it means in English because Gaelic is a pretty complex language.
“The Celtic breakfast is always good on Sunday morning,” he continued. “We try to give people traditional festival food, but we also have a lot of authentic Celtic food and beverages to give it that Irish flavor.”
Workshops include Baking with Bill Evans of Evans Bakery, an Introduction to the Gaelic Language and Introduction to Irish Music.
“We’ve done a lot to expand the cultural side of the festival,” Kain said. “That has been the biggest change this year. We have dancing, history, genealogy, the Irish wolfhounds and all the different workshops. The merchandise is big, too, because you get an opportunity to find stuff in person that you can normally only get online.
“Musicians from some of the participating bands will be helping with the Introduction to Irish Music workshop,” Kain continued. “It’s nice because the bands are not just there singing, they help out with the festival, too. They take part in it, try to promote it and get people to support the vendors. It’s a team effort, which is really neat. They’re real down to earth and they like to mingle with the crowd. We really appreciate them. We’re lucky to have them.”
This year’s lineup includes the festival debut of Scottish group Heron Valley and Irish artist Rory Makem, along with returning headliners Gaelic Storm, Scythian, Socks in the Frying Pan, the Fitzgeralds and We Banjo 3. The festival also features local talent such as Dulahan, Father Son and Friends, the Drowsy Lads and Jameson’s Folly.