Can you have too much fun?
This is one of my favorite weekends of the year. And, despite the passing of the summer season, it’s also one of the most hectic I have every year, though in a good way.
First, nearby Snow Hill, Md., offers a two-day Celtic festival at the Furnace Town historical site, running most of the day on both Saturday and Sunday. Then, the University of Delaware’s Lewes campus offers Coast Day on Sunday. Millville officials got in on the act a few years ago, adding the Great Pumpkin Festival to the roster of potential entertainment opportunities on Saturday. Finally, there’s River Soccer Club, where my son would normally spend Saturday mornings in October.
All in all, it makes for either an insane(ly fun?) schedule or some very difficult choices.
River Soccer is hosting a tournament this week, so we’ll scratch soccer off our list, even if taking in a tournament would be a lot of fun. But that still leaves so much to do, so much fun to have…
I have tried to do it all in the past. I have, indeed, cheered from the sidelines of a U-6 (now U-8) soccer game and then headed out to Millville for the Pumpkin Festival, where moon bounces, live music, food and more are on tap. That was followed by a trip to Snow Hill on Sunday morning, when plenty more music, food and crafts are there for the enjoying, only to bug out mid-afternoon and head up to Lewes for fish (both still swimming and nicely fried), fun and lots of interesting information.
But this year I have choices to make, because I just can’t do it all in two days. A tough decision, indeed.
I must admit that my primary focus each year when this weekend comes up is the Chesapeake Celtic Festival.
A variety of national and regional acts — Iona is a favorite of mine — are always ready to entertain festivalgoers with traditional and contemporary sounds rooted in the seven Celtic nations and their offshoots, which include Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Brittany in France and Spain’s Galicia region, as well as Canada’s Cape Breton and even Appalachia.
Local Irish dance schools field teams of girls and young women (and sometimes a few boys) to show off some of the fanciest footwork this side of, well, Ireland. Clan groups can offer help with researching your Celtic ancestors and getting in touch with your modern kin.
Storyteller Jean du Nord — she holds the traditional title of bard — will again entertain children and adults alike, and will also offer a Celtic church service on Sunday this year, while Furnace Town’s traditional artisans will show off their crafts, such as broom-making and blacksmithing.
Bridging those crafts with modern commerce are a number of vendors who offer their wares at the festival. Shiny baubles and beads are available by the multitude, whether containing a bit of Connemara marble or showing off the Irish claddagh symbol. And there are items made of glass and wood, traditional tartans, toys for the kids and lots of ways to display your Irish (or Scottish or Manx or…) pride.
My favorite acquisition from the Celtic festival has been keeping me warm for a few years now. It’s a beautiful knit shawl in the softest, silkiest yarn, in shades of green, blue and cream, and the woman who makes them has an entire booth full of such treasures, though they’re each one of a kind. I was lucky enough to spot this one mere seconds before another potential buyer headed right for it, and by the skin of my teeth I was the victor in that competition. (Is competitive shopping a sport?)
Another of my favorite parts of the festival is the appearance of some of the traditional dog breeds of the Celtic peoples, particularly the Irish wolfhound. If you’ve ever seen an Irish wolfhound, you’ll know it, because these gentle giants are the largest breed of dog in the world. As a contrast, the compact, agile Border collie is also on display at the festival, offering awe-inspiring demonstrations of their sheep (and duck) herding skills and their ability to listen to the subtle signals from their handlers, whether by voice, whistle or hand signal.
For the history buff or those yearning for the days of yore, there are armed fighting demonstrations by the Society for Creative Anachronism and a group of historical re-enactors. Personally, I’m particularly fond of the demonstrations by the Medieval European Martial Arts Guild, who show off their expertise in the combative arts developed during the Middle Ages and Renaissance — yes, they’re fencing and swordfighting with live steel.
If swordfighting isn’t your cup of tea in the world of sports, the festival also includes traditional Highland games, such as the caber toss. Strong men (and some women, more recently) in kilts tossing telephone poles end over end against a measure of precision and distance or throwing big rocks over a pole overhead — that’s my idea of a competition!
And once they’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time for another of my favorite parts of the festival: the food! I nearly always go for cream of crab soup in a bread bowl. It doesn’t often get better than that! But there is everything from shepherd’s pie, pasties and fish-and-chips to even haggis, if your palate is adventurous. If not, there are also funnel cakes, crabcakes and highland beef. And I always top off lunch with ice cream fresh from happy highland cows.
If your idea of dessert comes in a more liquid form, though, you’re in luck. Between the ales, mead, hard cider, wines and whiskey tastings, there’s plenty to get you in the mood for some dancing, singing and storytelling of your own.
How can you resist that? It’s a good thing there are two days to choose from (or maybe you do both!). Gates open at 11 a.m. on Saturday and at 10:30 on Sunday for the Celtic chapel service, with the opening ceremony at noon. Things wind to a close around 4:30 or 5 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for adults or $5 for children and members of the military. (And if you want to get a head start on the festivities, there’s also an opening-night event on Friday evening, with lots of music and dance opportunities.)
And that’s just the barest hint of all the festival offers. For more information and a schedule of events for the weekend, visit the Web site at www.celticfest.net.
As much as the Chesapeake Celtic Festival draws me in each year, Millville is now offering a solid bit of competition for my time and attention on an October weekend. Imagine: A festival named for the Peanuts’ Halloween special! Well, maybe not. But the hometown fall fun on display at the Great Pumpkin Festival is certainly deserving of the moniker and a nice nod to the feel of the Charlie Brown tradition.
From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, people from around the area will be converging on the Millville fire hall for games, moon bounces, a petting zoo, pony rides, rock-climbing wall, food, live music and entertainment, and information from local businesses and organizations. The event has gotten so popular that they’re now offering shuttle service for those having to park a little farther out than they might otherwise like.
And who could resist a day of community togetherness to kick off the fall after a summer full of visitors and traffic? I’m having a hard time, even with the lure of the Celtic festival calling my name.
Our local musicians, business owners and community members — full-time and part-time — have been going all out for the Pumpkin Festival for four years now, and they’ve created a gem of a local event. You really don’t have to travel far this weekend to find a great way to get together with neighbors and spend time with the family.
But Sunday… Ah, Sunday… Coast Day. Otherwise known as the feast of a hundred wonderful fishes… Have I already revealed my favorite part of this annual event? Yeah, I’m pretty transparent about this.
I haven’t yet entered my mother’s famous authentic Maryland-style crabcakes into the annual crabcake cook-off at Coast Day, but I’m tempted every year. (Mom makes some great crabcakes — no peppers, no filler, just a couple of saltine crackers as a binder.) And the entries in the Seafood Chowder Challenge offer an entirely different take on competitive crustacean cooking.
Sure, you can always buy a slice of pizza at Coast Day, but fish, crab dip, ice cream and funnel cakes are just the start of the amazing offerings from a dozen or more vendors set up just for the event. My biggest decision is what to eat first and whether to whet my appetite with learning before I tuck in to some fine festival food.
That’s the best part about Coast Day, really: the combination of information and experiences for kids of all ages with some local delicacies. You can’t beat cheering for a crab in a crab race and then dipping in to that crab dip. But Coast Day also offers cooking demos, so you can get some tips for your own kitchen, as well as chances to look around marine research vessels and even pet a shark. (How’s that for cool?)
We live at the beach, but how much do you know about the mechanics of beach erosion? Is sea-level rise likely to impact your vacation or your home? You can find out these sorts of things at Coast Day. Has your kid made a fish print before? No? Well, they can do it at Coast Day.
So, that’s my Sunday (11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in case you were wondering…). Or is it? Is it any wonder it’s so difficult to choose what to do each of these days this weekend? Do I go to the Celtic festival on Saturday, or do I take in the Great Pumpkin Festival instead? And, having made that choice, do I prioritize fish over Furnace Town on Sunday?
It’s a good thing there’s no soccer this weekend… But then maybe I should take in a nice tournament…