A Field of Dreams Come True - July 2003

Pendragon on stage
Pendragon (photo: Ernie Black)

On July 12th, 2003, Blackstone Valley experienced its first Celtic Festival.

McInerney School dancers
McInerney School dancers
(photo: Ernie Black)

After many months of research, planning and meetings, the BVCC made this dream a reality. The Blackstone Valley Celtic Festival on King Farm in Sutton, MA was a fabulous success ...

Aoife Clancy
Aoife Clancy (photo: Ernie Black)

beyond any of our wildest expectations. Perhaps because we are calculating realists, or that it was our first Celtic Fest ever, we did not want to exaggerate our instinct that it would be a huge success. But people came in droves, and from all over, including the states of RI, NH, CT, NY, and NJ. Some families even brought their guests from England and Scotland!

The day-long event featured outstanding performers: the Glengarry Bhoys, Robbie O'Connell Band, Pendragon, Aoife Clancy, Laura Cortese, Skip Healy, John Whelan Band, along with Tulach Árd Pipe Band (sponsored by the Greater Worcester Community Foundation) and the McInerney School of Irish Dance stepdancers. Participants also had the opportunity to watch side events like the border collie sheep herding demonstration with David Kennard,

Laura Cortese
Laura Cortese (photo: Ernie Black)

Maggie Carchrie teaching puirt a beul (mouth music in Scottish Gaelic) and dancing, Jason Kallioi's magic act, Larry Keating's hawks and falcons of Celtic Europe, and much more (for a full listing of the day's events, visit our program page). And of course there was wonderful food from Scottish pies to delicious ice cream to enjoy and vendors offering Celtic crafts for sale. Please visit the festival photo gallery to relive the event and see what you may have missed!

As many of us know, you can do everything right but a great turnout depends on the weather. Well, luck was on our side, as we were greeted by a beautiful day of sunshine, comfortable temperatures and a welcomed breeze throughout the day. Based on reports from the gate and the fact that children 12 and under were free, we estimate attendance was over 6500 people!

Border collie demonstration
Border collie demo (photo: Ernie Black)

Entertainers were delighted with the audience, and entire feel of the festival. The food and merchandise vendors alike were thrilled with the crowd, the site plan, the music line-up and grateful for taking a chance on our first fest. They have already asked to return next year.

A coordinated group of over 100 volunteers were outstanding and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

Pendragon with Irish step dancers
Pendragon with Irish step dancers (photo: Ernie Black)

And of course everyone who attended was impressed with the music, dancers, array of cultural entertainment and spectacular view that only King Farm can offer. The Celtic Festival and King Farm, truly a match made in heaven!

The chamber has been receiving email, letters and phone calls of congratulations since July 12th. Here is what some of many happy visitors had to say....

"Let me be the first to congratulate you on today's event. Please extend my congratulations to all of the staff at the Chamber for the incredible job you all did to bring the first Celtic Festival together. I know the work that goes into events such as this and you really pulled it off..........big time. All deserve great praise for the way the Valley was represented and presented. Next year will be even bigger and better, but I don't know how it could be better. Count on me to help again next year. Keep up the awesome work and share my thoughts from the top of your organization down. Job Well Done!"

Robert Billington, CTP
President, Blackstone Valley Tourism Council
Chairman, Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission

"We have been to any number of festivals and none of them have been as well organized or as well managed as yours. There just isn't anything to complain about — your directions and signage were excellent, the layout of the field was first rate, especially limiting the drinking to the beer tent area, the crowds were large and enthusiastic and all the vendors I spoke to were very happy about the business they did, as we are. Again, thank you and we look forward to seeing you next year."

Jusith Evans Hanhisalo
Duxbury, MA

"Hello BVCC staff & Celtic Festival Committee Members. Just want to say Congratulations, WOW & Thank you for the amazing 1st Blackstone Valley Celtic Festival !!! We traveled over from Niskayena, NY and camped out nearby the site. My daughters, 11 & 16 and a friend 16, and I (too old to mention) had a wonderful time!! The King Farm was such a beautiful setting, the musicians, amazing, and so many other things to experience. David Kennard and his incredible border collies were super." "We had a wonderful day and hope there will be a 2nd BV Celtic Festival! Thank You! Our hats off to you all and a huge thank you to the King Family for the use of their beautiful farm! Also, want to let you know what a great job you did on the "street map of the Blackstone Valley" and "A kids guide to the Blackstone Valley", both very informative. We'll definitely be back to find out & explore more of the area."

Sue Lucas
12 Ray St.
Niskayena, NY

"Since you were kind enough to answer my many questions prior to the Festival, I felt compelled to send a note letting you know of my experiences. It was, simply put, awesome. As someone who grew up in Sutton (Boston Rd) and who now plays Irish flute, this venue was perfect! The prayers of thousands of people were answered Saturday as the weather was spectacular. The view was simply awe- inspiring! The performers were all dynamic and impressive! And the vendors offered a great mix of items for sale and food choices! (Irish nachos were my favorite!) If help is need in the planning of next years event, please keep me in mind, I would be very interested in helping. Again - KUDOS for hugely successful event!"

Susan Kneeland

"Just wanted to let you know what a fantastic time we had at the festival. Can't wait until next years. If you have a mailing list or email list please put me on it so I don't miss it! Thanks for all of the hard work that went into organizing such a great event. Please just be sure your vendors have more food next year, and have festival t-shirts available!"

Cynthia M. Gianfrancesco
N. Scituate, RI

"Congratulations on the success of the first annual Celtic Festival! We could tell it would be a winning event when our phones started ringing off the hook last week! We're pleased to have been able to offer our assistance with this important festival. You should be very proud. You brought together community and showed off the Valley to visitors during what is usually a slow season. Congratulations on making it all come together for a wonderful family event! Please keep us posted on attendance numbers and post-event reports. Again, our sincerest congratulations on your latest achievement!"

Donna J. McCabe, President
Central Massachusetts Convention & Visitors Bureau

In addition to these written letters, the BVCC has received many phone calls and messages reflecting the same notes of enthusiasm and gratitude in these letters. We are looking forward to our post-event meeting and the opportunity to do it all over again for years to come with a goal to improve on a good thing and continue to bring people to the Valley.

The BVCC wishes to thank and acknowledge all of our major sponsors,
Citadel Communications, Telegram & Gazette, Atlas Distributors, Charter Communications, Fleet, Mass Electric, The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Commission, Braley & Wellington Insurance Company and Fallon Community Health Care in helping us bring a signature event to the Valley, to the King Family for opening their doors and hearts to hosting a cultural experience that families and friends enjoyed and will never forget.

Thanks to each and every one of you who took part in creating, organizing, sponsoring and volunteering at this event! What a terrific dedicated effort on the part of so many!

Claudia Dexter
Project & Events Director
(additional material provided by Ernie Black, Webmaster)