On Saturday, July 29, Caras Park will host the seventh annual Celtic Festival Missoula — this year for the first year as a day-long celebration of Celtic culture with bagpipes, craft beer, pasties, Irish rock and Irish dance.
The festival first came about when Shannon and Bob Lukes, owners of Missoula Brewing Company, held an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Highlander Beer, their signature brew, in 2010. Because of the beer’s Scottish roots, the event became a celebration of Celtic culture.
“I’m Scottish, my husband’s Irish,” Lukes said. “We’ve been to Scotland and we love it, so we absolutely love to bring that culture here.”
In past years, between 8,000 and 10,000 people have gathered in Caras Park for Celtic Festival Missoula, where food trucks and merchandise vendors sell Celtic-themed goods, and performers come from across the country to share Celtic traditions. This year, the Young Dubliners, an LA-based Irish rock band, are headlining, and will take the main stage at 9 p.m.
Nicknamed the “Young Dubs,” the band uses traditional Irish instruments to play Irish folk songs and original compositions with a modern rock twist.
The Stout Pounders, a Seattle-based Celtic Folk band, will come on at 7 p.m. with “comedic twists to time tested Scottish and Irish folk music,” according to their website.
“Dancing and jigging is highly encouraged and we certainly won’t stop you from tipping back a drink or two along the way.”
The Gothard Sisters, a trio of three sisters — Willow, Solana and Greta — will come from Washington to perform Celtic music and choreographed traditional Irish dances. The sisters have competed in Irish dance championships, and can play a plethora of instruments, though they all first learned the violin.
There are nine shows throughout the day, beginning at noon. Local groups like the Missoula Irish Dancers and the Celtic Dragon Pipe Band will kickoff the celebrations.
The festival is free, organized by volunteers, and all proceeds after expenses go to charity.
Lukes created a nonprofit organization called the Montana Diva Foundation, which donates the festival’s proceeds to a local nonprofit. This year, the proceeds will go to CASA of Missoula, which provides advocates to help children within the judicial system who are at risk or have experienced abuse or neglect. Advocates work with children until they live in a safe and permanent home.
After some major sponsors withdrew their support, Bob Ward’s Sports and Outdoors stepped up to become a primary sponsor for 2017. This year, Bob Ward’s celebrates its 100th anniversary, Lukes said.
“It’s local people stepping up to support a local festival to end up supporting a local nonprofit,” Lukes said. “It’s really cool how everyone comes together. We have a really cool community that supports each other, so that's pretty amazing.”