DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – It takes a lot of hard work to put on a festival that takes over multiple city blocks, includes live music, dozens of vendors, and huge crowds.
This year marks the 18th year of Dayton’s Celtic Fest. The event began in the summer of 2002 and has become a mainstay of summers in downtown Dayton ever since.
Celtic Fest is the work of hundreds of volunteers who come together throughout the year to coordinate the festival.
Festival Marketing and Publicity Co-Chair Shawn Kain said that working on the festival is a labor of love from all of the committee members.
- Setting up for the festival begins the day after that year’s festival ends
As Monday morning after the festival approaches, there are already things that need to begin to be set in place.
The first thing that needs to be taken care of is that the larger musical acts need to be booked immediately.
Acts like headliners Gaelic Storm have become regular performers at the festival. The celtic band blends indie-folk with classical celtic sounds and have developed are devoted following over the years. Their first breakthrough was performing in the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.” In the years since they’ve played around 120 shows a year.
The popular demand for acts like Gaelic Storm means that committee members need to be ready to get them booked for next year’s performance as soon as possible.
The planning committee consists of between ten and twelve members who meet throughout the year.
“We start booking a lot of the big acts,” said Kain. “We start that the day after the festival. You know it’s a year-round process; working, starting to get the vendors lined up and things of that nature. Mainly doing a lot of logistical things. Just so we’re all set on those areas.”
2. All of the members who put on the event are volunteers
The event has grown in size each year since its first appearance in 2002.
After the planning committee holds preliminary meetings to begin arranging the following year’s events, they begin to reach out to restaurants, sponsors, artists, and other businesses that can contribute to the festival.
“There’s hundreds of volunteers throughout the weekend,” said Kain. “[Volunteers] are helping with beverages, helping with the different vendors as they need, working all the logistical arrangements behind the scenes, working with Five Rivers, making sure that we’re all in sync there.”
“This is an all-volunteer event and it takes everybody we have on the committee to pull it off,” said Kain.
Celtic Fest has expanded the size of the festival each year, adding additional elements that incorporate a variety of entertainment and cultural activities. In recent years, they’ve added such culturally-infused events such as the Gaelic Mass on Sunday, as well as the Celtic Breakfast.
The festival continues to expand and listen to customer feedback each year. Even as the need for volunteers grows with the festival, Shawn Kain said the committee remains dedicated because of how rewarding the festival ultimately is for them.
“I love doing it,” said Kain. “It’s a fun event. It’s a good group of committee members and volunteers we work with. We like working together. It’s nice to see everyone come together to put this event on. I’ve got Irish and Scottish as part of my background. All those things make it personal for me.”
2019 Festival Hours:
Friday, July 26, 5:30 pm -11 pm
Saturday, July 27, 11:30 am – 11 pm
Sunday, July 28, 9 am – 6 pm
A full breakdown of each day’s schedule can be found here.