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Welsh Gone Wild

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There's no mistaking that Tucson's main cultural influences come from the Hispanic community, which makes up more than 40 percent of the region's population, according to the 2010 census.

But this isn't a two-culture or even a three-culture town.

The impact of cultures from around the world can be seen in stores and at festivals across Pima County, whether it be Danish pastries in the foothills, Greek food and music in midtown or Native American influences practically everywhere.

Believe it or not, the Welsh fall in there, too. Arguably the least known subset of Celtic culture, the Welsh take center stage this Saturday at the area's first Welsh Eisteddfod (which is Welsh for gathering).

The festival, which will be held in the courtyard of Flanagan's Celtic Corner, a midtown retail shop that offers jewelry, clothing and other items with Celtic themes, is being run by the Tucson Celtic Festival Association, the main organizer of Irish and Scottish events in Tucson. The idea of doing something to recognize the Welsh first came up last year, TCFA treasurer Sarah Mackie said.

"We tend to forget about the Welsh," said Mackie, who can trace her roots to both Scotland and Wales. "That's how it is with a lot of people. They might know that they're Scottish, Irish or Welsh, and this way they can find out a little about who they are. I always think it's really fun to find things out, like where my clan came from."

With assistance from the Welsh League in Phoenix, the TCFA has put together a program of entertainment, information and sustenance focused on Welsh traditions. The festival will also honor Saint Melangell, the Welsh patron saint of small animals.

"In real life I'm a vet tech, so I was excited to do something that combined the Celtic tradition with animals," Mackie said.

To further advance this theme, the festival will include a pet food drive to help the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter. Some cats may be on site for adoption, but Mackie said that will depend on what Saturday's weather is like. Both canned and bagged pet food will be accepted.

The festival includes a performance by Welsh musician John Good of Phoenix, poetry readings, dancing and a silent auction to help raise money for TCFA's 28th annual Celtic Festival & Highland Games in November. Food trucks will be on hand and a cash bar will feature a special Welsh brew cooked up by Sentinel Peak Brewing.

"They do make beer in Wales, but they don't tend to export it," Mackie said, noting the beer will be similar to a lager, but more sour. "It should be unique."

Visitors to the Welsh Festival can also check out Flanagan's, which Mackie said is the only Celtic-themed store in Arizona.

Tucson's first Welsh Eisteddfod runs from 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday, May 17, at Flanagan's Celtic Corner, 2719 E. Broadway Blvd. Admission is free. For more info, call 909-7299 or visit tucsoncelticfestival.org.

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