Celtica Pipes and the Young Dubliners are co-headlining the 15th Annual Celtic Music Feis (festival) in Ocean Shores.
From today through Sunday, more than 30 acts from seven countries will be performing on eight stages at Galway Bay Irish Pub and the Convention Center.
Galway Bay owner and festival founder William “Liam” Gibbons, along with Chris Doyle, his business partner since 2011, readily recite the reasons behind their huge event: It makes enough money that Galway Bay doesn’t have to lay off any of their loyal staff for the winter; and it fills the town, hotels and many restaurants and retailers with visitors at a time when tourism is otherwise slow.
Doyle said advance ticket sales have been ahead of last year, and they expect about 2,200 total paid admissions this time, up from about 2,000 last year.
For Gibbons, the event is an annual affirmation of his idea — first tried in 2004 with five acts on a three-day weekend — that the area could support such an undertaking. “I always love the fact that people love what we love: Irish music and culture.”
In some ways, Doyle said, the success of the festival has created its biggest challenge. With four separate stages, Galway Bay is usually filled to capacity. He said all-access tickets and Galway-only tickets were pretty much sold out in advance again this year, although they retain a handful to sell at the door each day.
In contrast, there is ample space at the Convention Center, which is set up with a big main room and three smaller stages. The venue hosts about 70 performing sessions and 18 workshops during the festival. The Convention Center will also offer a vendor village and a rotating menu of classic Irish food and drink.
A variety of ticket packages are available, ranging from $5 for Sunday only at the Convention Center to “Festival VIP Platinum All Access Tuesday-Sunday” for $175. For those who want to take in a lot of music, the best value is the $70 Convention Center-only pass, good Thursday through Sunday, when all but two of the artists will be playing.
The main stage there is set up to accommodate two or more bands, which creates a lot of opportunities for musical interaction. There are nine “battle of the bands” sessions and nine jam sessions, most with two or more artists, in addition to regular performances.