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Kilted Celts draw crowds

John HartBlacksmith Anthony Edwards heats his forge Saturday at the fairgrounds as he prepares to hammer metal into a ladle.
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If Fairport Convention had been the only component of this weekend’s Celtic Festival and Marketplace, that in itself would have made the sixth annual event, sponsored by community radio station KVMR, a success.

As Friday’s headliner, the 35-year-old English folk-rock band put on a stunning performance at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. Fairport Convention members flew from England to Northern California the day before to begin a tour of the United States.

An hour before taking the stage Friday, the English musicians good-naturedly claimed they were still suffering from jet lag and longed for a good night’s sleep, in between bites of a quick dinner backstage.



Bassist Dave Pegg mentioned he had been up for the last 28 hours, and it was hard to stay awake.

But their performance belied that statement.




All five band members never seemed tired once they hit the stage for a two-hour, intermission-free set. Combining expert harmonies with exuberant instrumentation, they shared jokes (lots of innuendoes about aging band members) and exchanged anecdotes about their songs.

There was no indication of jet lag as each member rocked hard. Original member Simon Nicol played so hard he broke two guitar strings during the show.

But Fairport Convention was just one of 25 musical acts, seven dance acts and other first-class

events in the Celtic festival that ran from Friday afternoon to Saturday night.

Festival highlights included the procession of almost 100 participants, including the award-winning Caledonian Club of Sacramento Color Guard, to start Saturday’s events, and all-day living history by re-enactment groups such as Clan Iain Abrach-Maclain.

“We get to swing swords; it gets us out of the house,” said Colm Maclain, whose real name is Greg Kurlinski, a computer technician in Antioch. He and up to 60 other members of the Scottish Living History Guild’s Clan Iain Abrach-Maclain portray life in Scotland from 1532 to the 1580s at festivals and community events throughout the year.

At these re-enactments, Kurlinski will play that era’s board and dice games, such as “goose,” “shut the box” and “nine men’s morris,” with Douglas Huskins, a computer program manager from Martinez. Huskins, who goes by the name of Andrew Silverhill when in costume, added, “It’s a great way to socialize.”

Besides showing how the Scots spent their time in leisure and how they fought with swords, the clan also spins wool, does lacework and tapestry, and sometimes converses in Gaelic.

Scottish Games returned to the festival, for the first time sanctioned by the Scottish American Athletic Association.

Thirty-four athletes from throughout California competed in Saturday’s caber, light stone, braemar stone, light hammer, heavy hammer and weight-over-the-bar events.

The athletes take these games seriously.

Kim Ross, a deputy sheriff in Yuba County, has practiced for 18 months by lifting weights three times a week and throwing one day a week.

A former gymnast at California State University, Sacramento, Ross said she competes because it brings her closer to her Scottish heritage.

This year’s Celtic Marketplace, with merchandise from flags to fairy art to swords to dragon incense burners, didn’t fail to attract the attention and pocketbooks of festival-goers. And food booths were tempting, offering tastes from around the world, including, of course, the English banger and Scottish meat pies.

Festival producer Britta Tigan said the festival’s attendance grows by at least 30 percent each year. She estimated 3,000 Celtic fans were in the audience Friday, and between 6,000 and 7,000 fans present Saturday.


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