EVANSTON — An estimated 3,000-plus people attended the Céilí at the Roundhouse Celtic Festival on March 22-23, held at the Evanston Roundhouse and Railyards Complex. Vehicles lined Main Street from the Post Office to the end of the Railyards, filled the parking lots there and at City Hall and were parked on every side street.
The two-day event produced by Arts Inc. of Evanston grew by more than 700 attendees from last year’s count. Director Carolee Bowen said people come in and out all day and the organization’s board hasn’t completed its final report.
“We passed word at their festival when we attended so two organizers of the Bellingham, Washington, Celtic festival came to our festival this year to check it out,” Bowen said. “We had people come from Alaska and a great number from Utah.”
She said dvertising for the event was placed on Utah television with a Lodging Board grant. Local advertising was placed in the Uinta County Herald and a mailer was sent out to all postal customers in the area.
“I think word of mouth is one of our best forms of getting the crowds to come,” she said. “It is one of the great events in Evanston and word gets around.”
Proceeds from the event pay operating expenses first, which are significant, according to Bowen, and expenses grow as the festival grows. Revenue gained goes toward the summer MAT Camp, the Young Musicians Festival, bring artists to schools, and supports the organization’s annual concert series, along with educational events throughout the year. Bowen said she’s relied heavily on grants in the past but many of those are disappearing due to the down economy. She said the board has already booked two or three artists for next year’s festival.
Bowen said the trips she makes to Ireland and Scotland and other U.S. festivals in search of headliner bands are a small part of The Arts, Inc. budget for booking bands. Last year, she received a grant from Ireland that paid for the majority of her trip there, and she paid part of the expense personally.
Bowen met the headliner band Ímar two and a half years ago in Scotland. She said it took a lot of work to get them to come here. They had to get a U.S. agent to pick them up and arrange a booking tour for them.
“They were a hit this year at the festival,” Bowen said. “The High Kings, who were scheduled for Saturday night, canceled their last two concerts due to illness and called us on Saturday morning. Ímar was a hit as the first band on Saturday and Réalto (the headliner from Friday night) pulled together regional artists that played during the day for a ‘grand mash-up’ in place of the High Kings, and it was phenomenal.” She said 680 people attended on Saturday night.
Bowen said that in 2020, The Arts, Inc. will be taking over the Evanston Bluegrass Festival due to Kathy Bella’s upcoming retirement. Bowen said her board will reevaluate the mission of the Bluegrass Festival and will make some changes.
During the Celtic Festival, Bowen said volunteers handed out surveys asking for comments on new ideas and suggestions about how the board can improve. Organizers might consider adding additional venues; the results of the survey have not yet been compiled.
“We are always looking for ways to make a better experience for our patrons,” Bowen said. “We want to keep the festival as culturally accurate and true to the Celtic culture as we can. Our intention is to boost the economy in Evanston and bring people in from out of town. A dream is to involve all businesses in Evanston and gain their participation with activities taking place all over town.”