Celebrating the Celts

Celebrating the Celts

The nameless, faceless artists who embellished ancient stone motifs and knotwork in Celtic Scotland enthused artist Rebecca Forbes to work her inspiration into her own pottery after a visit to Scotland in 1995.

Forbes has since crafted her own pottery, which is hand thrown, glazed and fired, at her home studio. Experience has even led her explore new areas of her craft; most recently, earrings made by combining glass and found beads with Celtic knots.

Forbes has exhibited her work at many different festivals, including the Potomac Celtic Festival, where she will be joining many other artists, crafters, vendors and performers to celebrate Celtic culture and heritage.

The Potomac Celtic Festival will return this summer for its 13th year, June 17 and 18, at Morven Park International Equestrian Center in Leesburg. Just like its past festivals, the celebration will feature various aspects of Celtic culture such as food, crafts, music, dance and activities.

This year, the festival will feature 20 musical performers, 17 dance troupes, 12 food vendors, two pubs, 18 storytellers, 58 crafters, and seven to 10 different workshops including introduction to Welsh, introduction to hand-spinning and the Irish language. Participants will come from all over the world including Canada and Ireland.

ÒI'd like people to think that itÕs the Mid AtlanticÕs best festival of its kind,Ó said Jennifer Rader, publicity coordinator for the festival. ÒThey learn something and they appreciate something. I personally was a volunteer in 2002 and didnÕt know much about Celtic culture and I had a great time. That was what was key to me."

AN UNUSUAL ASPECT of the festival is that it celebrates the cultures of all seven Celtic nations and their impacts on North American culture, rather than focusing on just one, as many Celtic festivals in North America do, said Amy Ripton, president of the board for the Potomac Celtic Festival.

Each year, the festival rotates a new theme. This yearÕs will be Ireland. The board also focuses on rotating ideas to avoid repetition and keep the festival fresh. Vendors and crafters change every year through a selection process.

ÒThe arts and crafts aspect of the festival is juried, which allows us to make sure that we're providing a platform for the most talented artisans and artists around,Ó said Ripton. ÒThe jury itself is made up of people who really understand handicrafts and art. I have been at jury meetings and I am astounded both by the quality of the work submitted by applying crafters and vendors and by the care taken by the members of the jury to make sure that each applicant is carefully considered, fairly judged and treated well.Ó

Nitefest is a popular part of the festival each year. Starting at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, the NiteFest will offer the Pub Tent stage to showcase high-energy Celtic rock bands the Prodigals and opening act, Scythian.

Celtic sporting traditions are also a part of the celebration, featuring the Highland Games Saturday and men and womenÕs rugby tournaments Sunday.

THE FOUNDERS of the first Potomac Celtic Festival were a group of musician friends that held a Celtic craft festival in 1993, which took place at Oatlands Plantation. They thought it was a good idea because it was not being done. The next year, the group developed the Barnaby Council for Celtic Studies and the festival expanded from there. The name was changed to the Potomac-Celtic Alliance and the goals were extended to get other groups involved.

Coming back to the festival for the sixth time, Forbes has a lot to look forward to.

ÒI have lots of repeat customers. I work very intensely alone. I do all the work myself and then I go out to festivals and have intense social interaction with other people. ItÕs a balancing act and I really look forward to seeing my friends there.Ó

Tickets are available in advance until June 15 online. Prices include adults $15, children $7 and $40 for the family package. Prices at the gate include adults $18, children $9 and $50 for the family package Ñ two adults and up to four children.