13 Years and Still Going Strong: Spanish Peaks International Celtic Festival

By Barbara Yule

Let the pipes and fiddles set your feet to tapping! September 21-24 ushers in the 13th year of “the biggest, little Celtic festival” in Colorado – the 2017 Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival in Huerfano County. Picturesque La Veta, located at the base of the beautiful Spanish Peaks, is the focal point for the majority of festival events. Sacred to early American Indians tribes, the Ute people named the Spanish Peaks Huajatolla (Wa-ha-toy-a), “Breasts of the Earth.”

Today, people living in La Veta still celebrate the peaks for the plentiful snow and rain they bring and the greening of surrounding valleys and uplands that sustain her people and abundant wildlife. Look closely, and you’ll see deer moseying down the street and resting under trees.

Photo by Mike Rosso

Unique in its scope and focus, the festival is designed along the lines of musical retreats in Ireland and Scotland, where attendees typically stay for an extended time and actually participate in scheduled and impromptu activities with guest performers and tutors. This festival offers a dazzling array of instrumental, singing, and dancing workshops plus fascinating demo/performances and concerts throughout each of the four days (lots of FREE events!). The festival has an intimate feel, and folks come back year after year to experience the rare blend of learning and entertainment and to share their passion for the craft and the music with like-minded, kindred spirits.

The festival started almost by accident in 2005 in the postage stamp-sized community of Gardner. My Scottish husband, Jack Yule (one of Scotland’s leading harp makers) and I had moved from outside Edinburgh to Huerfano County in December of 2000 for the sunshine – it tends to rain a lot in Scotland! The spring before our move, Jack raised a shed on our land – no running water or electricity – where we could live while he singlehandedly went about building our house. Jack was surprised to find he was the only Scotsman in the whole county. Not only that, but as a melodeon player himself, he could find no one interested in playing traditional Celtic music. The call went out and gradually a few hardy souls decided to give the music a try. Among them was neighbor and fine guitarist, Clark Diamond, who suggested issuing an open invitation to a musical picnic gathering (or ceilidh) on his land the summer of 2001. Forty people, including children, showed up. 

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Historic Architecture – The La Veta Pass Depot Constructed by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad

Photo and story by Kenneth Jessen The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad reached La Veta Pass in 1877 on its way westward into the San Luis Valley. At 9,390 feet, it was the highest railroad pass in the United States at that time. A stone depot was constructed at the pass along with other railroad …

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Pipes, Whistles and Fiddles in the Rockies

by Elliot Jackson

When I moved to Colorado from Chicago over ten years ago, there were many things about the city that I found myself delighted to be leaving behind: traffic, crime and wild extremes of climate among them. However, the one thing I found myself indubitably missing – and craving – was its music scene: specifically, its Celtic (Scottish and Irish) music scene. Chicago was home to some of the best Celtic musicians on the planet, and it seemed like there were sessions and concerts almost every night of the week. In addition, there was always the chance to take lessons in any instrument, from harp to fiddle to accordion to bagpipes, from some of these musicians, either privately or through venerable institutions like the Old Town School of Folk Music or the Irish Heritage Center.

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In defense of La Veta

Letter from Ryus Coffee Club

La Veta – October 2005 – Colorado Central Magazine


This letter is in response to the letter from Mr. Daniel G. Jennings, published in the July 2005 edition of Colorado Central. While most of us agree that the average price of residential real estate seems to be spiraling out of the reach of the ordinary citizen, especially in large cities, there seemed to be much in the letter that left us shaking our heads in wonder: in general, the idea that people in the service industry (sales, publishing, banking, artistry) are part of some “hype and speculation” conspiracy and in particular, that Mr. Jennings used our home town of La Veta, Colorado, as a prime example of what he seemed to think was wrong with America.

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