Nothing gets you into a celebratory mood quite like a party and that’s exactly how Parksville’s WinterFest & Craft Fair plans to close it’s third annual event this year. On Nov. 23, Parksville Qualicum Beach band Celtic Chaos will once again break out their instruments and strike up good times with a ceilidh dance.
“To bring that energy and fun to a larger group is an important part of what we do,” said Celtic Chaos’ accordion player Dave Barta.
According to the band’s fiddle player Joyce Beaton, a ceilidh (pronounced “kay-lee”) is a Scottish and Irish tradition in which people gather to play music, tell stories, recite poetry and generally have a good time. Another vital part of the party — and the main focus of this month’s event — is high-energy traditional dancing in which groups of partners dance in set patterns.
“It’s a Scottish barn dance with Celtic music,” explained WinterFest organizer Bobbie Garnons-Williams.
“It’s a kitchen party,” Barta added, describing the type of atmosphere a ceilidh creates. “It lends itself well to family and community events.”
This is second year WinterFest has ended with a ceilidh. Last year, Garnons-Williams said around 200 “very active” people of all ages attended. “Hardly any people were sitting,” said the organizer, who attended ceilidhs in Scotland when she lived there for five years. “It was amazing.”
Celtic Chaos also played the ceilidh last year. According to Barta, the band’s repertoire includes new and traditional music from different Celtic traditions such as those found in Ireland, Scotland, Quebec, Cape Breton and Appalchia. The group, which has five musicians from Parksville, Qualicum and Nanaimo, has played this music together for about 12 years. “We really enjoy playing when we get together,” he said. “We’re really good friends.”
This year, June Cannon from Hornby Island will also join Celtic Chaos on stage to help even more people get into the spirit. Her job is to come up with dances that are tailored to beginners and then walk participants through each dance’s steps before the music starts.
“She’s very good at getting people up and running,” said Beaton. “If they were able to walk into the hall, they’ll be able to dance.”
Of course, it’s perfectly OK if you mess up. Beaton and Barta both emphasize that the ceilidh is about having fun and meeting people, not your footwork.
WinterFest & Craft Fair runs Nov. 21-22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m at the Parksville Community & Conference Centre. There will be food vendors, artisans, non-profit booths and live Celtic entertainment. Entrance on any day is $4.
The ceilidh dance will be held at the end of WinterFest on Nov. 23 at the same location, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the dance going from 6:30 – 9 p.m. A concession will be available, but no alcohol will be served. Tickets are $15 for adults, $7.50 for youth ages 5-18, children under five are free. There is also a family package deal, which is two adult and two youth tickets for $40. Tickets can be purchased at the door or during WinterFest, as well as at Mulberry Bush Bookstores, Soak Essentials Marketplace, or call Garnons-Williams at Island Highlander (250-240-1233).