Besides blistering heat and humidity, July does bring one thing I look forward to every year – the Saline Celtic Festival. Founded 16 years ago as a way to honor the sister city ties between Saline and Brecon, Wales, it has grown into a well-regarded local festival of all things Celtic, including the music. This year’s festival is held at Mill Pond Park, 565 W. Bennett St., on Saturday, July 9, with a Pub Night preview on Friday, July 8.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the festival is the pipe and drum corps. If you like bagpipes, this is the only local venue that offers traditional music. Five regional pipe bands are scheduled for this year’s festival—Detroit Caledonian, Cabar Feidh Pipes and Drums from Royal Oak, Glen Erin Pipe Band from Lansing, Grand Rapids and District Pipe Band and the Kalamazoo Pipe Band. Each band will compete in the piping competition as well as play for the opening ceremonies and in a mini-parade around the park in the afternoon. It’s worth the entrance fee for this alone.
At the current time, there are fourteen acts listed on the festival website, and more are promised. I can’t discuss them all, but here are a few of my favorites.
Detroit-based Blackthorn, comprised of Gary McMullen, Fred Klein, Richard McMullan and Dennis Green, has been wowing local audiences with their authentic Irish sound since the early 1980s. I’ve treasured their very enjoyable and traditional albums, and they are always personable and fun in concert.
Eclectic and brash, singer-songwriter Beth Patterson will be MCing the Red Dragon stage on Saturday as well as performing at the Pub Night and on Saturday evening. She’s a return guest at the festival, as her turn a few years ago was extremely popular. Combining elements of traditional Irish music with her own Cajun heritage, along with a soupçon of feminism, a dash of iconoclasm, and a wicked sense of humor, Ms. Patterson showcases them all with her ferocious Irish bouzouki playing and her lovely voice.
Detroit-born Cathie Ryan, Irish-American chanteuse, also makes a repeat appearance at the festival. Known best for her seven-year stint as lead singer of Cherish the Ladies, she has gone on to make a name for herself as an original singer-songwriter.
Maura Shawn Scanlin & Leigh Rudner, a young duo playing fiddle and cello, make their debut at the festival. 15-year-old Scanlin is the youngest ever US Open Scottish Fiddle Champion, while Dexter native Rudner is completing her Masters of Music at the University of North Carolina. They have an impeccable background in Scottish music, and their interplay should be awesome.
The pre-festival week holds several events, including workshops with various musicians and artists. On Saturday, besides the music, there will be a 5k run, Highland athletic exhibitions and competitions, merchant tents, jousting, living history demonstrations, Celtic Survivor, children’s events and a gathering of the Clans, and much more. You can find out more about all of these and the exact schedule of events by going to http://www.salineceltic.org/.
Tickets to the Pub Night are $5. Festival tickets are $5(youth)/$10(adults) in advance, and $15 at the gate (with seniors/veterans paying $10). After 6pm on Saturday, all tickets will be $5.