September 10, 2009

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A run, a shave and a party
Wild Rover raises money and celebrates Irish/Scottish culture with Celtic Fest
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com

For the first annual Celtic Fest, Manchester’s Wild Rover takes to the streets with an afternoon-long block party and a couple of big charity events — a “holy trinity” celebrating all things Irish and Scottish. It takes place on Sunday, Sept. 13, which just happens to be about six months away from the biggest day of the Celtic year.

Hey, it’s for a good cause — two actually — and since when does an Irish pub need an excuse to party?

A little bit of research reveals that the first “halfway to St. Patrick’s Day” celebration was — no surprise — the brainchild of the folks at Guinness beer. The Wild Rover joined the festive urge with a charitable instinct, and has long marked the conjured holiday with a 5K road race to benefit the Manchester Police Athletic League. 

St. Baldrick’s Day isn’t found on any calendar. It’s the country’s largest pediatric cancer research charity, specializing in a unique activity to raise money and awareness. 

“Leukemia and cancer strike a lot of children and they lose their hair,” said local St. Baldrick’s organizer Joshua Auger. “So men will shave their heads in solidarity with the kids in treatment.”

Auger got involved with the group at a time when his mother was going through breast cancer treatment (now in remission). He signed up for an event at the Wild Rover, sponsored by the Manchester fire department. When the firefighters backed out of the annual effort a few years later, Auger stepped in, and he ran the event last year at the pub. The effort raised over $6,000 for St. Baldrick’s Day.

Afterward, Wild Rover owner Jim Batchelder approached Auger about the possibility of joining forces for a daylong event, which would also include music. He readily agreed.

 “I think our vision is to make this a yearly thing,” Auger said.  “Manchester doesn’t have an Irish or Celtic festival, but it has such a huge base of Irish families. So let’s make it a Celtic event, incorporating Irish, Scottish, Welsh, whatever you are — any people with Celtic background. We’ll make this a Manchester city-wide event [for] charity.”

“This isn’t going to just disappear next year,” Auger said. “It’s going to build and get bigger.”

Big-time Celt rockers Seven Nations headline the all-day event, which also includes music from Marty Quirk, who also leads a weekly sing-along at the pub. 

“Marty is a fixture of the establishment,” Batchelder said by phone from his Manchester home.  “He’s been there longer than the Wild Rover. He came with the building when I bought it.”

Joining Quirk are musical guests Jim Houghton and Simon Crawford, along with a team of Irish and Scottish dancers and a contingent of cloggers.

A combined local and regional pipe and drum corps also performs, and athletes from the upcoming Highland Games (Sept.18-20 at Loon Mountain Ski Resort) will give demonstrations.

There’s also family-friendly entertainment like face-painting and a fire truck for kids to climb on. There’s a 50/50 drawing, and a pair of tickets for an upcoming show by another well-known Irish band — U2 at Gillette Stadium — will be raffled off. Of course, there will be plenty of food and drink at the event, held rain or shine. Patrons are encouraged to bring their own chairs.

But, along with a PAL-benefiting 5K race, helping the cause with haircuts is the big focus.  Volunteers can register any time, even on the day of the event. Auger hopes to raise $15,000 for St. Baldrick’s, adding that his own shearing (provided by the Manchester Not So Plain Jane’s salon) will be done in honor of Lyndsey, a 5-year-old Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) patient receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

As in the past, Jim Batchelder also will take part in the public spectacle — but says the barbers probably won’t have to spend as much time on him.

“I’ll be getting my head shaved again this year,” he said. “There’s less hair to shave every year, but that’s besides the point I guess.”


Celtic Fest
What: First Annual Wild Rover Fest with Seven Nations, Marty Quirk & Friends and others. Benefit for PAL and St. Baldrick’s Day
When: Sunday, Sept. 13, 1 to 8 p.m.
Where: Wild Rover, 21 Kosciuszko St. in Manchester, www.wildroverpub.com; call 661-9410 for charity info
Tickets: Free
Here is the schedule for the Wild Rover’s day of music, dance and fundraising
• 1:20 to 1:40 p.m. — Pipe Bands march in from Kosciuszko to end race
• 2:15 to 3 p.m. — Marty Quirk and Friends and Pipers (Main Stage)
• 3:05 to 3:25 p.m. — Granite State Cloggers (Main Stage)
• 3:30 to 3:50 p.m. — Cunniffe Academy (Main Stage)
• 3:55 to 4:15 p.m. — Remaining Pipers to play a set (Main Stage)
• 4:20 to 4:40 p.m. — McGonagle School of Irish Dance (Main Stage)
• 5:20 to 5:50 p.m. —Marty Quirk and Friends (Main Stage)
• 6 to 8 p.m. — Seven Nations (Main Stage)