It’s tartan time in Bethlehem

Source: Kathy Lauer-Williams,

The nip of fall is in the air and that means it’s time for Celtic Classic.

The 24th annual free celebration of Celtic heritage, running Friday through Sunday in downtown Bethlehem, has a few new attractions. The biggest is the Jameson Irish Pub, a new venue where you can cozy up for an acoustic set and sip 18-year-old at a 24-foot-long wooden bar. There’s a new “Celtic Legends” showcase at the Highland Games, featuring older athletes, and you can meet and greet the athletes. And Celtic Classic has a new free application for smart phones to keep you connected..

Vocalists/fiddlers Rose Baldino and Genevieve Gillespie of Celtic band Burning Bridget Cleary. (BRIAN MENGINI, CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / September 21, 2011)

All the favorites return. There is music by 19 acts, including a one ticketed concert by Celtic supergroup Solas. The Highland dancing competition is back, as is the fiddle competition, the piping competition and the Haggis Bowl. So is Celtic Crossroads, featuring theater and film.

Here’s a preview of the fest.


The new tented venue located on Heritage Way, at the western edge of Highland Field, features a large wooden bar adorned with a Celtic knot and other symbols, hand-crafted by carpenter Mark Furman of Allentown. Served at the bar will be 12- and 18-year-old Jameson whiskey.

The entertainment will reflect the laid-back relaxed atmosphere and include storyteller Joe Keane, comedic singer Seamus Kennedy, historical re-enactor David Kincaid performing Irish songs of the Civil War, the Jameson Sisters, Jil Chambless & Scooter Muse, Amarach and Timlin & Kane. Members of your favorite groups, including Graham Wright of the Glengarry Bhoys and Sean Hennessey of Blackwater, will drop in on Saturday for solo shows.

The pub also will have an exhibition of Scottish country dancing Saturday afternoon and Irish ceili dancing and contra dancing Sunday afternoon.


There is more music this year with 19 performers, including returning favorites such as Glengharry Bhoys, Burning Bridget Cleary, Blackwater, McPeake and the Makem & Spain Brothers. Here are a few highlights:

Solas: In the festival’s only ticketed concert, the Celtic supergroup presents its exciting take on traditional Irish music. Solas is fronted by founders Seamus Egan and Winifred Horan. Egan plays flute, tenor banjo, mandolin, whistle, guitar and bodhran, while Horan provides the Irish fiddling. They are joined by Mick McAuley from Kilkenny who plays accordion and concertina, and Eamon McElholm from Tyrone who plays guitar and keyboards. McPeake will open the concert at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Foy Hall and Solas will take the stage at 8:30 p.m. The concert is sold out.

The Screaming Orphans: New to Celtic Classic, this group is made up of the four Diver sisters from County Donegal, Ireland. Joan is lead singer and drummer; Angela plays bass and violin, Gráinne strums guitar and Marie Thérèse handles keyboard and accordion. Compared to the Bangles and the Cranberries, the four women perform pop-rock with an Irish flair. Growing up singing and playing traditional Irish music with their parents, the four as teenagers headed out on their own (hence their name) to start their own band. The band plays at 9:30 p.m. Friday in the Grand Pavilion.

Girsa: Another all-female group new to the festival, Girsa, which means “young girls” in Gaelic, is made up of eight women from Pearl River, N.Y., several for whom traditional Irish music is a family affair. Sisters Maeve and Bernadette Flanagan are the daughters of Rose Conway Flanagan, an original member of the pioneering all-female band Cherish the Ladies. The elder Flanagan also taught Girsa fiddlers Kristen McShane, Margaret Dudasik and Deirdre Brennan. Expect world-class fiddling, step-dancing and lilting harmonies. Girsa performs Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Grand Pavilion and 7 p.m. at the Ice House; and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Grand Pavilion and 4:15 p.m. at the Tavern Stage.


Enjoy a preview of some of local performing groups’ upcoming shows Saturday and Sunday at Celtic Crossroads outside Foy Hall. It’s organized by the Eastern Pennsylvania Arts Alliance, a collaboration of area arts organizations. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. you can see a puppet demonstration by Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre, get sneak peeks at “Southside Spooktacular” by Touchstone Theatre and “Great American Trailer Park Musical” by Pennsylvania Playhouse, enjoy improvisational comedy by The Associated Mess; dancing by Pennsylvania Youth Theatre and a performance by the City of Bethlehem Bagpipe Band.

Godfrey Daniels will present folksinger Jack Murray, and the Southside Film Institute will screen “Paradisio,” a documentary that follows Derry musician Roy Arbuckle, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Foy Hall.


Celtic Classic hosts the U.S. National Highland Athletic Championships for the fifth year. New this year, competitions by the professional athletes will be interspersed with exhibitions by Celtic Classic “legends” — former competitors who are over 40.

The top 10 Highland athletes in the country compete in traditional feats of strength, speed, agility and skill, such as lifting a heavy stone, throwing a hammer and tossing the caber, skills that were essential in medieval Scotland. Returning to defend his victory is Daniel McKim, who is currently ranked No. 1 in the country and has set several records recently. For the first time in four years there are two new competitors — Rusty Price and Chad Gustin. Returning is Harrison Bailey III of Easton, who came in fourth in 2010.

The legends are Alistar Gunn, Gene Flynn, Peter Gudmundsson and Ryan Vierra.

Games kick off with the caber championship at 6:30 p.m. Friday and continue 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Awards are presented at 6 p.m. Sunday. New this year, athletes will meet fans and be available for pictures and autographs at 5:15 p.m. Sunday on the field.


•Haggis Bowl: 5:15 p.m. Friday, Highland Field. The ever-popular competition to eat as much of Scotland’s national dish has been scaled back to a more manageable 25 competitors. Once again competitors are being urged to dress in face paint and full Scottish regalia. There will be a prize for the most creative attire in addition to the grand prize to the person who most quickly eats his steaming mound of haggis. Two-time winner, Bob Khuns, who holds the haggis-eating record of 48 seconds, will be back to defend his crown. Entry fee is $10.

•Scottish Highland Dancing Competition: 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Foy Hall. The traditional Scottish dances return to Celtic Classic in the competition open to all ages and skills. Dancers can compete in traditional Highland dances including the Highland fling, sword dance, seann triubhas (old trousers) and reels in the morning and return to compete in the more modern Scottish national dances including the Scottish lilt, village maid, blue bonnets and Scotch measure, Irish jig and sailor’s hornpipe in the afternoon. Dancers will be accompanied by a bagpiper.

•Piping competition: 1:30 p.m. Saturday for Grade 4 bands; noon Sunday, for Grade 3 bands; Lehigh Street and Heritage Lane. There are more pipe bands this year because Celtic Classic has added a competition for Pipe 3 bands. There are eight top-level Grade 4 pipe bands competing on Saturday and six Grade 3 bands competing on Sunday.Grade 4 awards will be presented at 6:45 p.m. Saturday and Grade 3 awards at 4:15 p.m. Sunday following a massed-band performance at 4 p.m. on the Highland Field.

•Celtic Classic Junior Fiddle Competition: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Ice House. Fiddlers under age 17 will perform both traditional dance tunes and slow airs from the Celtic lands. The event includes all Celtic styles of fiddling, including Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Shetland, Orkney and the less-frequently heard Galician style. Three prizes are awarded in two age levels.


More than 80 vendors will sell Celtic-themed jewelry, wool sweaters, tartans, artwork and wooden swords.

New to the festival is Heart of Galway, direct from Galway, Ireland, which offers authentic claddaugh rings (Irish wedding bands) in gold and silver. Or get your kilt on with USAKilts of Phoenixville, which provides custom kilts for the festival — Americkilts and Utilikilts — all made in the United States.

Two new food vendors will provide two very different options for festival-goers. Scottish Cottage will sell traditional Scots fare including shepherd’s pie, pasties and bridies as well as unique pulled pork smoked with peat. Island Noodles will offer a less Celtic, but lighter menu of wok-cooked soba noodles with 21 vegetables and optional chicken.

Other authentic Celtic foods include haggis, Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, Scottish meat pies, shortbread and scones. For the less adventurous, there is always pizza, tacos, gyros, kielbasa and pierogies.

Returning are the tickets that debuted last year. The tickets are $1, but are perforated and can be torn in half to pay in 50 cent increments.

Beer prices remain the same — $5 for a cold pint of Killian’s, Coor’s Light and Sam Adams lager, along with Hardcore cider. O’Hara’s Stout is still $5.50.


•The Showing of the Tartan parade heads down Main Street at 11:30 a.m. Saturday with eight pipe bands, including the City of Bethlehem Bagpipe Band, as well as the Liberty High School Grenadiers, the Freedom High School Patriots and the Bangor High School Slaters.

•Scotch tasting is expanding. Glenlivet is joined by Jameson to offer 40-minute sessions that include tastings of five premium scotches, along with information on the history of whiskey, Scotch whisky and the two distilleries. Tastings will be at 6 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 6 p.m. Saturday and noon, 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday in a small tent along Lehigh Street. The cost of $25 includes a souvenir Glencairn crystal whiskey glass.

•Sheep-herding border collies from Wayside Farms will perform every day on the Highland Field.

•The Celtic Quest craft tent will feature crafts for children based on the seven Celtic nations 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Located on Heritage Lane under the Hill-to-Hill Bridge, the area gives kids the opportunity to learn about Scottish and Irish cultures while making crafts including St. Brigid’s crosses, friendship bracelets and stained glass pictures.


Celtic Classic’s new free smart phone application is the first phone application developed for a festival in the Lehigh Valley, according to Jayne Ann Recker, executive director of Celtic Cultural Alliance.

Users of iPhones, iPads and other smartphones can have entertainment schedules, performer profiles, a festival map and information about food and vendors at their fingertips. The application was developed by Trifecta Technologies of Allentown.

Users also will receive alerts throughout the festival. QR codes will be prominently displayed around the grounds of the festival which smart phone users can scan to instantly download the application. The application also can be downloaded free at or


•When: 4-11 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

•Where: Downtown Bethlehem under the Hill-to-Hill Bridge and the Ice House on Sand Island.

•How much: Free; tickets for food and drinks are $1 each

•Parking: Free on-street parking; $10 on Historic Bethlehem grounds at Monocacy Creek and in North Street and Walnut Street municipal garages.

•Shuttle: Park at the Mountain Tower lot on Eighth Avenue. Shuttle leaves every 15 minutes, 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Wristbands: $4; $2, children age 10 and under.

•Info: 610-868-9599,


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