Award Winning RUNA Headlines Saline Celtic Festival

 06/17/2014 - 14:50

RUNA, winners of the 2013 Irish Music Awards for Top Group and Top Traditional Group, is a headliner at this year’s Saline Celtic Festival, July 11-12 at Mill Pond Park. Members the young, energetic band, based in Philadelphia, hail from Ireland, Scotland, Canada and the U.S.. The band comprises vocalist and step-dancer Shannon Lambert-Ryan, guitarist Fionan de Barra, Cheryl Prashker on percussion, Dave Curley on mandolin, vocals, bodhran and step dancing, and fiddler Maggie Estes.

“I’m very happy to present RUNA this year – they’re a contemporary Irish-American group performing many great songs done by groups like Solas, Altan, and Clannad,” says festival entertainment chair Pam Kittel.  “I first heard them at the Ark last year, though I’ve seen the musicians perform in other groups; Fionan was in Riverdance for a while, Shannon was in the Guy Mendilow Band, and Dave is in SLIDE.”

Another headliner is Saline’s own Jeremy Kittel, performing a unique fusion of jazz, Scottish, Irish, bluegrass and classical music, with mandolinist Josh Pinkham and guitarist Kyle Sanna.  Jeremy, who earned jazz degrees from the University of Michigan and the Manhattan School of Music, has won numerous awards in Scottish Fiddle and jazz, has toured the world performing music, and has released four CDs. 

The Vermont-based band, Prydein blends the hard rocking edge of guitarist Aron Garceau with Iain MacHarg’s mastery of the bagpipes, teamed with Andy Smith on bass, Caleb Bronz on drums, and Dan Houghton on just about everything else.

“I heard Prydein play at the St. Andrews Games in Livonia two years ago,” Kittel says.  “Instead of doing Irish drinking songs with electric instruments, they play good rock – with bagpipes.  I think their rap video of ‘Devil in the Kitchen’ is a good example of their humor – they’re also known to launch into Jingle Bells in the middle of Scotland the Brave.”  

Barleyjuice will play high energy Celtic rock at the July 10 Summer Music Series in downtown Saline and July 11 at “Saline ShamRocks the Park,” an evening that will include The Square Pegz ’80s tribute band from Detroit. “We have a bit of a new line-up this year,” says Kyf Brewer, a Barleyjuice original with Keith Swanson and Eric Worthington. “Along with the original founders and songwriters, Swanny, Eric and myself, we’ve added Barnes, our new drummer, and Alice, our new fiddler, who will blow you away with her stage prowess alone.”

Michigan band Finvarra’s Wren will play Irish, Scottish and Celtic-American folk music; and the festival also welcomes Fiddlers Restrung from Saline, and the Chelsea House Orchestra.

“It’s a great line-up – a nice mix of traditional, contemporary, fusion, and rock, with something for everyone,” Pam Kittel says. “And the main stages will run from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 and 11:30 p.m., so there are many entertainment choices for folks arriving in the evening.

“We’ll also have a busy dance stage with performances and workshops from 11:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and the stage where the Highland Dance Competition takes place turns into our fourth music stage mid-afternoon.  Add in the Acoustic Tent where there are pipe bands and an Irish Jam Seisún, and we’ll have five stages presenting Celtic music and dance.”

Various music stages will host performances from the Tartan and Thistle Scottish Country Dancers, Damhsa Ulsce Ban Mor from Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor Celtic Harpers, Commonwealth Dance Collective, Irish Dance Company of Lansing, Dancin’ with Delia Irish Dance School, Celtic Jam, Dancin’ Feet School of Gaelic Culture and Dance, and Ann Arbor Morris.

Cabar Feidh Pipes and Drums from Royal Oak, Glen Erin Pipe Band from Lansing, Grand Rapids and District Pipe Band, and the Flint Scottish Pipe Band, will lead off the opening ceremonies, perform at 30-minute intervals throughout the afternoon in the Acoustic Tent, and give a massed band performance at 5 p.m.

A different kind of percussion will be from the thunder of horse’s hooves in thrilling jousting contests, featuring Percheron horses Rilius “Riley” Maximus, and Lord “Chevy” Chevalier, ridden by “knights” in an exciting jousting competition, the world’s first invitational Mounted Martial Equestrian Games Series.  The Society for Creative Anachronism will give displays of Celtic weaponry and fencing demonstrations, and the Ann Arbor Sword Club will demonstrate swordplay and fencing skills.

Saturday’s events include the Mastodon Celtic Challenge, a 3-mile obstacle course involving hills, mud, woods, and water; and an obstacle course for children. Festivalgoers can also take part in the Haggis Hurl, Golf Chipping, and Celtic Clobber challenge.

Wee Folks Island will host ducky races, wee haggis hurl, dragon slaying, wee golf course, jewel crowns, fairy door decorating, and the Wee Folks parade with decorated strollers and wagons.  

Highland Athletics events include Heavy and Light Weight for Distance, Weight Over Bar, Sheaf Toss, Caber Toss, Braemar and Open Stone, and possibly a keg toss after the main competition.

The park will be also filled with sheepdog demonstrations; textile weaving, wool spinning, and lace making along with Gaelic “waulking” songs; food and Michigan craft beers; and much more – as well as the famous “Millie the Mill Pond Monster” and her two monster children, who will surge from the Saline River to roar and snort smoke at the crowds.

The gates to “Saline ShamRocks the Park” open at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 11 and admission is $5. Tickets at the gate for the daylong festival on Saturday, July 12 are $5 for ages 13 to 17, $15 for adults. Active military, seniors ages 65 and over, and children 12 and under are free. Adult tickets are $10 when purchased online and groups of 10 tickets are $80. Tickets will also be available for sale at Saline City Hall the week of the festival.

For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit

Sheila Pursglove's picture
Sheila Pursglove
Sheila Pursglove is a long-time Saline-area resident, and a freelance writer for several publications in Michigan, around the U.S. and abroad.