Patrons, participants channel their inner ancestors at Celtic Festival
You have to forgive Kat Deering if she pours on the English a bit too thick.
Her muse, Lady Rutland, hails from the House of Swindon, on the northern border of Scotland and England, during a time when the two countries were a bit more than wee rivals.
Her ornate dress, bodice and jewelry reflected a woman of more than well-to-do means.
With the breeze blowing, smoke billowing from fires warming pot-bellied rafts of bubbling soup and tin whistles mixing with fiddles, it almost seemed as if Lady Rutland were standing on the wind-swept shores of northwestern England, casting her eyes across the sea to Ireland, where a second group of men and women in period costumes peered with suspicion at the woman and all of her riches.
In modern times, Lady Rutland is Kat Deering, who hails from nearby Rocklin. She and her husband, Mark, the Third Earl of Rutland, form a cast of characters called the House of Swindon.
Their appearance at the annual Celtic Festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds is a nearly yearly occurrence.
The Celtic Festival, in its 13th year, wrapped up Sunday. For many of the participants, it’s a history lesson, a back-to-nature exercise and multi-century discography of music, topped off with a little grog and some pomp and circumstance. Lucky patrons who stuck around long enough might even try a bit of potato soup warming in ancient kettles suspended over a fire.
“It’s a very nice way to take a break from the mundane bills, car and job and have a little fun,” Deering said.
It’s also a place where your pet dog can become a shipwrecked Spanish heir, where eating with your hands is acceptable, and men in kilts are as ubiquitous as televised sightings of Queen Elizabeth across the pond.
“I’m more comfortable in my kilt,” Ron Ragan of Willits said Sunday, dressed in a kilt with an attached pouch that held valuables placed strategically on his person.
It’s partly where we get the expression, “the family jewels,” with valuables socked away in a medieval fanny pack of sorts.
Ragan plays a character named Seamus O’Riagain in festivals he travels to. With a white beard and a pitch-perfect voice, it’s hard to tell whether the man prefers the 21st century or the 16th.
“It’s fun, and we try to teach the public about the English version of the way things were,” he said. Ragan and his mates perform about four re-enactments a year, using real muskets and musket balls.
Plenty of locals were in on the act as well, with sweet harp music playing from one of the many stages.
Delphine Griffith, 11, strummed “Bonny Partmore” as her father, Gary, took pictures. The trio also consists of McKenzie Morey and Zoe Brownwood.
“She’s pretty amazing and has come a long way,” Gary said. “It’s nice for the kids to have an opportunity to participate. It’s one thing that makes this a community-oriented event.”
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