Ireland’s Great Famine, which lasted from 1845 to 1852, was a powerful driver of immigration. Although two million refugees made the long sea journey during that time, they were neither the first nor last. It’s estimated that since 1820, more than six million Irish people have emigrated to the United Staes. Though present in Colorado since at least the 1850s, the Irish population was small until silver was discovered in Leadville in the 1870s. It quickly became the most Irish city in the Rocky Mountains, its citizens playing host to Irish playwright Oscar Wilde and providing strong support for Irish causes both in the U.S. and “back home.”
Many of the high-altitude Hibernians who struck it rich in the mines descended from the mountains, building grand homes in Capitol Hill and establishing the city’s first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in 1885. They were joined by Scottish, Welsh and Cornish immigrants, and Colorado’s Celtic heritage remains strong today. Festivals that honor ancient and contemporary Celtic culture keep the craic (Gaelic for “good times”) going all summer long.
PIKES PEAK CELTIC FESTIVAL
June 16-18, 2023
Western Museum of Mining & Industry in Colorado Springs
Historical re-enactments, whisky/scotch tastings, Highland games, music, dancing and more. Online ticket sales only; no tickets will be sold at the festival. Parking $20. A variety of ticket options are available. Children 5 and under free.
CORTEZ CELTIC FAIR
June 24, 2023
Parque de Vida in Cortez
Dancing competitions, Highland games, and plenty of fun for the entire family. Admission is free.
ELIZABETH CELTIC FESTIVAL
July 15-16, 2023
Casey Jones Park in Elizabeth
Bands, dances, whiskey ice cream, and a dog show featuring breeds from the British Isles. Children 10 and under are free, adults $15, seniors and students $10. Parking $5. Only service animals are allowed.
59TH ANNUAL COLORADO SCOTTISH FESTIVAL AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGHLAND GAMES
August 5-6, 2023
Denver Polo Club in Denver
Enjoy Scottish athletics, bagpipe and traditional dance competitions, whisky tastings, clans/genealogy, living history, re-enactments, Scottish and Irish music, Celtic merchandise, beer and food vendors, children’s activities, dogs, cars, and more including Governor’s Cup Polo Match on Saturday and Rugby on Sunday. Details and tickets will be announced soon.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN IRISH GATHERING
August 11-13, 2023
The Lincoln Center in Fort Collins
“Red Hair Day,” Irish Wolfhounds, Irish traditional music and contemporary rock performances, and a chance to win a trip for two to Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day in 2024. A variety of passes are available here.
47TH ANNUAL LONG’S PEAK SCOTTISH-IRISH HIGHLAND FESTIVAL
September 8-10, 2023
Estes Park Fairgrounds in Estes Park
Four stages, countless bands, camping, bagpipes, camels (yes, camels) and much, much more. A variety of ticketing options are available. Service animals only.
Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival
September 21-24, 2023
Multiple Venues, Huerfano County (3 hours south of Denver)
Now in its 18th year, this four-day destination brings internationally renowned artists and scholars to celebrate all things Celtic music to Colorado.
COLORADO TARTAN DAY
Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont
GRAND VALLEY SCOTTISH GAMES & CELTIC FESTIVAL
Mesa County Fairgrounds in Grand Junction