BY KIM VAN METER
Special To The Leader
In spite of rain threatening to wash out the Sonora fairgrounds, the 33rd annual Sonora Celtic Faire continued as planned, drawing people from all around to enjoy the unique entertainment only the faire can provide from whiskey-tasting to the rousing sounds of Celtic bands from around the country.
Native American dancers accompanied the Emerald Pipe Band, melding two cultures in a powerful display of ceremonial dancing and music that brought people to tears.
The brisk wind chill wasn’t a deterrent but some were better prepared for the cold weather than others, especially those in the living history section of the faire. While many people flock to the faire for the more obvious entertainment choices — the joust, the whiskey-tasting and the live bands — some find the opportunity to learn about the past a compelling opportunity.
And for some, such as Turlock resident Brian Evans and Kris Baltz of Greeley Hill, they come to educate.
Evans and Baltz are part of the 9th century Viking reenactment guild Sjorvaldar, Old Norse for “Sea Wolves.” They came to the faire, set up camp and lived as their ancestors did — at least for the weekend.
“It’s about teaching the history of 1,000 years ago,” Baltz said.
Baltz, a general contractor by day, says he still uses some of the same building techniques the Vikings used. When asked what drew him to get involved with the guild, he laughed and said, “The promise of playing with swords, axes and hitting people, the old-school fighting.”
For Evans, a mechanical ag teacher, he enjoys the opportunity to educate whenever he can.
“A lot of people don’t realize where they come from,” he said. “It’s also a lot of fun.”
A popular attraction, the Irish wolfhounds, gentle giants from another era, loped alongside their handlers at the faire promoting understanding and outreach for the big breed.
“They just give unconditional love,” Wanda Wolski said of the wolfhounds. Wolski, along with Kathy Zwiep, are members of the Nor-Cal Irish Wolfhound Club and are trying to build up the wolfhound presence at the faire once again. “I’ll never own another breed again.”
However, Wolski cautioned, the breed isn’t for everyone, which is why outreach and education is so important.
“The vet bills alone can bankrupt you,” Wolski said. “And they need a lot of exercise.”
Zwiep agreed, saying that outreach and education was vital. Plus, attending the faire was great socializing for the dogs.
“We really like the Celtic Faire and everyone likes our dogs,” Zwiep said.
In addition to the unique vendors hawking handmade leather corsets and metal dragons and the delicious faire food, jousting competitors from the Knights of Mayhem and Full Metal Joust packed the grandstand with standing room only as they competed for everyone’s entertainment.
In all, people, such as Oakdale resident, Christina Diaz, went home with plenty of memories packed into the weekend.
Diaz, who has been bringing her family to the faire for the past six years, summed up the entire experience by saying, “I really like the fact there is something I can do with my whole family. There is something for everyone.”