While closures because of the novel coronavirus pandemic continue to lay waste to just about everything fun – or forcing a lot of the fun stuff online – Durango Celtic Festival is getting ready for its annual weekend of music and workshops, scheduled for spring 2021.
It’s an event that brings musicians from all over the world to town during our “shoulder season,” a time when things tend to get a little quiet and downtown welcomes full hotels and restaurants.
Heading into its ninth season, the Celtic Festival was one of the last live events held in Durango before everything was shut down in March. In fact, said CJ Alderton, president of the festival, Durango Celtic Festival was the last of its kind held anywhere at that time.
“We were the last Celtic festival in the world still going,” he said. “We were already putting stuff in place that is now commonplace, at the festival – we were already social distancing because we had to return so many tickets; people were starting to fear but there was nothing official yet. We plowed through and got through Saturday night.”
And for 2021, Alderton said the festival lineup has been pretty much set for a while – with a couple of bumps along the way – because organizers must work more than a year in advance to get the paperwork required to get international musicians into the country processed.
“We have to file paperwork with Homeland Security, they have to file with our immigration service, and the IRS is involved, they mark 30% off right off the bat on foreign artists coming in. So they have to have a tour – usually the first two venues pays their airplane tickets and the taxes,” he said. “So we have to be way ahead of the curve because they have to file paperwork that shows everywhere they’ll be, an estimate of what they’re going to make. I can’t call a band and say, ‘Be over here in two months.’ It just doesn’t work that way.”
And, because of the unpredictable nature of the novel coronavirus, everything can change quickly, which makes even the best-laid plans a little fuzzy, Alderton said, adding that come fall, hard decisions may have to be made.
But for now, the festival is moving forward and is looking for a new venue as a result of the Henry Strater Theatre closing in April after 60 years of running shows, including much of the Durango Celtic Festival.
“I think we’ll have to adjust,” said Shiela Lane, operations director for the festival. “We’ll figure out something. We don’t know what it looks like, but there will be something. I think now, more than ever, music heals. I don’t know anything else that brings people together, brings healing, brings hope, the way music does.”