Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

The 27th annual Sonora Celtic Faire will take place this weekend at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds, complete with Viking warriors, jousting and hundreds of Celtic performers.

The faire has expanded to three full days, with Friday set aside as Celtic Family Day. Gates will open at 9 a.m. for six hours of non-stop action, entertainment and education for all ages.

A low ticket price of $10 for adults and $5 for children will be offered for this alcohol-free day. Celtic Family Day entertainment will include Thomas Woods fire juggler, Viking warriors, Scottish bagpipers, Irish and Scottish dancers, the Imperial Knights Jousting Show, and hundreds of costumed performers.

Many food and drink vendors will be open for families, or groups can bring their own food. Group rates are available.

A Friday night kickoff concert featuring Celtic rock by Tempest will then take place from 6 to 10 p.m. for $15.

Saturday and Sunday will feature 20 musical groups performing on five stages. Scottish bagpipe bands will include the Stag and Thistle Pipe Band, Ripon Irish Police Pipe Band, Clandish Pipe Band and more.

Other bands will include the Wicked Tinkers, Tempest, Black Irish Band, Black Eyed Dempseys, Golden Bough, Avalon Rising, Sequoia, Siamsa le Cheile, Glenn Morgan and Story Road.

Musical headliners for the weekend will be the rocking band Celtica, a six-member group based in Austria that takes the Scottish bagpipe to a new level.

Celtica is led by Gajus Stappen of Vienna, Austria, on electric guitar and percussion. His fellow countrymen include Lukas Rausch of Scheibbs, Austria, on drums and Josy Svajda of Saalfelden, Austria, on vocals, keyboard and percussion.

Joining them are an international lineup including Gwendolen Rowe of Mendocino, Calif., on Great Highland Bagpipe, Duncan Knight of Edinburgh, Scotland, on Great Highland Bagpipe and Harry Weinkum of Phoenix, Ariz., on bass and percussion.

Their act often contains fire, with flaming guitars promised for the Sonora Celtic Faire.

Celtica will perform at 1:30, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The band will tour Arizona, Texas, Germany, Italy, Austria, Alaska, Netherlands, North Carolina, Canada, Spain, France, and New York before returning to California on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 for the 148th Scottish Gathering in Pleasanton.

Non-musical attractions will include Scottish and Irish clans, Scottish and Irish Step dancers, belly dance troupes, Celtic Windows in Time - featuring 600 costumed re-enactors and 3,000 years of Celtic History - armored foot combat, archery, Mountain Mischief jugglers and a jousting show by the Imperial Knights.

Other highlights include a large Celtic food court and Celtic marketplace with more than 80 Celtic vendors, artisans and craftsmen.

New this year is a large armored combat tournament.

"If you like boxing or mixed martial arts, you are going to love to see these armored warriors go at it" said festival founder Patrick Michael Karnahan of Sonora. "With full suits of armor and swords flashing, these gladiators will put their skills to the test, duelling it out for prizes and glory."

A total of 15 fighters have been signed for the competition, takoing part in up to three rounds of combat a day. The armored combat and jousting on horseback are included with admission.

On Saturday the festival opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the gate.

Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cost $18 in advance or $20 at the gate.

An "Everything Celtic Faire Pass" also will be available for $50, good for all three days along with the Friday night kickoff party.

All tickets can be purchased on-line at