A grand turnout for the fair

March 16, 2003 11:00 pm
Bagpipe players from the White Hackle Pipe Band helped kick off the Irish Days parade in downtown Murphys. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
Bagpipe players from the White Hackle Pipe Band helped kick off the Irish Days parade in downtown Murphys. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By ERIN MAYES

Jousting is a dangerous sport, and that's no blarney.

"That packs a punch. I love it," said professional jouster Cliff Bassett as a medic carefully snipped protective tape from his rapidly swelling hand. "It happens so fast, you don't know what's going on."

Bassett, a Fresno resident, was hurt during a thrilling match put on for spectators at this weekend's 17th annual Calaveras Celtic Faire, held at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp. A jouster for almost nine years now, Bassett said this injury to his hand — maybe a sprain — is probably one of the worst he has suffered as a participant of the medieval sport.

Fair organizer Patrick Karnahan said about 12,000 people turned out this weekend to observe not only the jousting, but fencing, archery, storytelling, dancing and bands playing almost nonstop.

Weather, much like a March day in Ireland, seemed not to be a deterrent, although many vending and re-enactment booths had to relocate or simply not set up because their sites had become muddy mosh pits by the time the rain let up.

But this year's rain was a welcome change from last year's cold front, which dropped the snow level down to Murphys.

Only about a quarter of the expected booths were actually set up Saturday, said Scottish-garbed re-enactor Danita Roxson of Antioch, who took on the identity of "Beatrice McIan" for the weekend. She and partner Ray Glosser, or "Angus McDonald," would normally have set up a booth and worked the drop spindle or cooked some old-time Scottish food, but, she said, "Because we did get rained out, we'll basically be walking among the people and providing a little color.

Glosser was wearing a kilt made of seven yards of wool and boasted one feather in his tam, or hat.

"All Scots can wear one feather," Roxson said. "Ray's a common Scot. Two feathers usually means you're a person of some importance in a household, like a tax collector. We think God wears four, but we're not sure who gave him permission."