We had a busy weekend in downtown Fredericksburg, VA last month! My dad attends classes at the LibertyTown Arts Workshop and the group took part in the Art Festival, Art Attack, on September 19th. He set up his easel and worked on his latest painting (of Evan!) on the sidewalk alongside many other artists and entertainers.
After visiting my dad and letting Evan critique his painting, we walked a couple of blocks over to the 26th Annual Fredericksburg Welsh Festival. One block further was also the Farmers Market (definitely a busy and crowded Saturday).
The Fredericksburg Welsh Festival is put together by the Welsh Society of Fredericksburg and the James Monroe Museum. James Monroe, the 5th President, had Welsh ancestry from his mother, Elizabeth Jones, and Scottish from his father, Spence Monroe. The first festival was held in 1989 and called the “Little Welsh Festival”. It has since become an annual event.
Wales (Cymru) is located to the west of England and is a part of the United Kingdom. Until the 20th century, Cymraeg (the Welsh language) was the predominant language spoken. Now, English is the most common save for a few pockets in Wales.
There was entertainment throughout the day, from music and dancers to a Bard (storyteller/poet) presentation, language lesson, and introduction to Welsh customs.
While we were there, the music group Iona was on the stage. Iona was founded in 1986 by Barbara Tresidder Ryan and Bernard Argent. Their music includes elements of Celtic- Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Breton, Asturian, and Galician, along with influence from the New World- Appalachian, Cape Breton, and Cajun.
Tents lined the street with vendors showcasing various Welsh and Celtic wares. There was also face painting and activities to keep young children occupied.
I particularly enjoyed checking out the cultural objects. This Coracle (Cwrwgl) is a small, lightweight boat fit for one person. It is used to maneuver the swift streams and rivers in Wales. With its small size, it is easily able to be carried to and from the water. Coracles are now more common in the tourist areas in Wales.
The Fredericksburg Spinners and Weavers Guild demonstrated their skills with weaving, spinning, and knitting.
Chris Pugh (Sir Blackwolf) of Medieval Fantasies Company had a booth set up with bows, arrows, armour, and other weaponry.
There wasn’t much in the way of Welsh food, so I looked into Welsh cuisine at home and came across Welsh Rarebit (originally Welsh Rabbit). Contrary to the name, there is no rabbit involved. Toasted bread, rye or country-style, is topped with a melted, bubbly cheese mixture (generally Cheddar) seasoned with beer, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
I topped my Welsh Rarebit with fresh thyme purely because I had it available and wanted to add a bit of color. Chopped chives or parsley would also work well. It can be dressed up even further with a fried or poached egg (called a Buck Rarebit), sliced tomatoes, or other toppings.
Not all recipes call for broiling the cheese. Some just pour the hot cheese sauce over the toasted bread slices. If you do broil the cheese (which I recommend), make sure you completely cover the top of the bread. Otherwise, the bread will burn before the cheese gets a chance to bubble.
If you are broiling before serving, the cheese sauce can actually be made up to a day in advance and refrigerated until ready to spread on the toast and place under the broiler. Keep a close eye on it. The broiler works quickly.
Welsh Rarebit (Welsh Cheese Toast)
Adapted from Amuse Your Bouche
6-8 slices of bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
200 mL (3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons) beer
60 grams (2.12 ounces) Cheddar cheese, grated
2 teaspoons mild mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6-8 slices bread
Fresh herbs for garnish (optional)
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden. Whisk in the beer. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Mix in the cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Toast the slices of bread on each side using a toaster or broiler.
Place the toasted slices of bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover with the cheese sauce, using a spatula or spoon to gently push the sauce to cover the whole surface. Place under the broiler set to low until the cheese is bubbly and turns golden in spots.
Serve immediately, topped with fresh herbs if desired.