With more than 30 performances over the weekend, Sparta’s Rogers Park will immerse festival-goers in all things Celtic in what shapes up as the biggest festival yet. See the full schedule.
SCROLL DOWN FOR LOCAL SPINS ON WYCE PODCAST W/ CELTIC FEST PERFORMER TOBY BRESNAHAN + NEW REGIONAL TRACKS
There’s a certain enchantment surrounding the folklore of Celtic music, and a deep-rooted tradition in commemorating it. It’s the refrain of celebration and fellowship: a merry time machine to yesteryear.
This weekend, Sparta will once again host its own annual Celtic festival, providing a kind of portal across the Atlantic and through the centuries.
“We’re thrilled to finally experience the Sparta Celtic Fest,” said Diana Ladio of Michigan’s The Moxie Strings, who will headline this year’s Sparta Celtic Festival.
“This event has grown immensely in the last few years and we’re honored to have been included in this year’s lineup. We’re very lucky to play Irish and Celtic festivals all over the country, but there’s nothing like getting to celebrate close to home. We can’t wait.”
The two-day celebration (now in its 8th year) will take place at Rogers Park beginning Friday at 6 p.m. The event is free of charge and open to all ages. Performers include Conklin Ceili Band, Blarney Castle, Stone Clover, The Moxie Strings, Toby Bresnahan, Hazard and an extensive list of other bands, along with several dance troupes.
“The Sparta Celtic Festival is a celebration of the cultures of all seven of the Celtic nations, with primary emphasis on Irish and Scottish music and dance,” said festival organizer and board member, Bill Lynch. “It’s for people who are full-blooded, or only just a little bit of any of those nationalities, and even for those who just wish they were.”
New arrivals to this year’s festival include the Snap Fitness 5K Kilted Fun Run and Walk on Saturday morning. Registration for the spirited race begins at 8 a.m. in front of the Rogers Park bandshell, with the run starting promptly at 9 a.m. Though kilts are not required, those who do sport the traditional Celtic attire receive $5 off their registration fee.
Also new at Rogers Park this year is a splash pad. Celtic-inspired food and merchandise will be available throughout the festival, as well as beer provided by local Cellar Brewing Company.
“Most every other music festival of this size and magnitude charges a substantial entry fee to get into the entertainment areas or beverage tent,” said Lynch, aka Liam “The Extra Large” Leprechaun. “At the Sparta Celtic Festival, you can roam the grounds without paying a dime to hear nationally known acts, as well as regional and local favorites. Entry to the festival is free, making it ideal for the whole family.”
Originally part of the Rockford Arts Council, in 2011 the Celtic Festival was handed over to the Sparta Chamber of Commerce and “embraced” by Sparta residents.
“Community and area support has increased each year with more businesses donating sponsorships and citizens volunteering to work at the festival every year,” Lynch said.
The event’s growth has been perpetual, and this year, a non-profit was formed around the festival, a positive development and effort to “continue to run and grow the event.”
“As an Irishman, I look forward to the children having fun, while getting exposed to just a little bit of their heritage while they explore the festival with their families,” Lynch said. “I enjoy seeing them dancing to the music, learning about 15th century weapons and maybe getting their first culturally correct gift for themselves or their family members.
“It’s the smiles at the end of the day that are the most rewarding.”
This week’s edition of Local Spins on WYCE featured an in-studio performance by Sparta Celtic Festival performer Toby Bresnahan, plus new tracks from Tom Hymn, Laura Rain & The Caesars, Blarney Castle and Age of Aletheia, plus the Hot Top 5 countdown of top July tracks with The War & Treaty, Dan Rickabus, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, The Accidentals and Mark Lavengood. Listen to the full podcast here.
PODCAST: Local Spins on WYCE with Celtic Fest performer Toby Bresnahan
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