Great Scot, it’s a festival!

Ah, the memories. Fiercely inebriated uncles, sporting the Murray or Baird tartans, scooping up piping hot plates of haggis—that treasured national dish of Scotland—to introduce us lads and lassies to our fine Caledonian heritage. But choking down plate loads of the vile comestible—essentially a sheep’s gut stuffed like a sausage with oats, sheep innards and other inedible objects—was damned near impossible without a bout or two of serious vomiting. Fortunately, one uncle was rather liberal in supplying us wee ones with drams of uisge beatha, the vaunted Scottish water of life that he had extracted from soured grains in a peat-fired contraption of metal tanks and tubes hidden behind his barn.

And ever-present was that piercing sound of bagpipes.

Quite understandably, I ran screaming from anything remotely Celtic for years after that, except for a periodic Chieftains obsession before that Irish group went all Willie Nelson by cutting way too many duet records. But, after hearing Nevada County resident Alasdair Fraser, a Scottish native whose stunning fiddle playing could melt the iron heart of the most resolute anti-Gael, I started coming to terms with being Scottish.

Fraser happens to be playing this year’s KVMR Celtic Festival this weekend in Grass Valley, along with a bunch of other acts that include Saturday-night headliner Solas, which is easily one of the finest bands ever to ply the Celtic tradition. Old Blind Dogs, who are neither canine nor blind, along with Wicked Tinkers, Mick Moloney, Wake the Dead (please don’t—Jerry’s snoozing just fine, thank you), Celtic Wonder Band and many other acts, also are on the bill. And dancing, storytelling and puppetry are on the agenda, along with some historical reenactments and the Scottish Games—which are kind of like the Olympics minus the ouzo and plus a good jar of stout or five. (Unfortunately, a bagpipe-accompanied projectile-vomiting contest, typically a big hit at Appalachian versions of the Scottish Games, won’t be scheduled for the Grass Valley soiree. Too bad.)

The festival, at the Nevada County Fairgrounds just off Highway 49, will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, October 2, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, October 3. Admission is $20 in advance or $25 at the gate on the day of the show for adults 17 and over, or $30 in advance or $40 at the gate for a two-day pass (members of KVMR, that much-appreciated foothill community radio station, get a few bucks off). For young people ages 6-16, it’s $8 for one day or $12 for both days in advance, or $10 for one day and $15 for both days at the gate. Kids under 6 get in free. For more information, you can call (530) 265-9073 or visit the festival Web site at

So, if the bagpipes don’t scare you, here’s what those folks who invented plaid call a good time. Dunno if there’ll be any haggis on hand for the kids, though.