35th Celtic Classic to bring culture, festival and crownings to Historic Bethlehem

Written by on September 22, 2022

35th Celtic Classic to bring culture, festival and crownings to Historic Bethlehem

By Jay Bradley
September 22, 2022

The 35th annual Celtic Classic festival kicks off Friday in Bethlehem.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Celtic Classic is coming back to Historic Bethlehem this weekend, bringing the historic cultures of the British Isles, competitions, food, music and vendors for the event’s 35th anniversary.

The event, on the grounds under the Hill to Hill Bridge and historic Bethlehem, will be 4-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

Admission to the grounds, the National Highland Athletic Championships and most other attractions at the event are free.

On the eve of the festival Thursday, the tents and stages were all set to go for a weekend of festivities. Jayne Ann Recker, executive director of the Celtic Cultural Alliance, which holds the festival, said its setup and ability to reach the milestone was a labor of love.

“These are all Celtic retail merchants that come from all over the U.S. and Canada to sell authentic Celtic goods,” Recker said, overlooking the festival tents. “We have authentic Celtic food vendors. You’ll find everything from Scotch eggs to fish and chips, haggis – it’s all here, along with the music and the presentations.”

Managing a team of about 500 volunteers, Recker said the history of the now decades-old annual event is what makes it special for her.

For the first time, to celebrate the 35th anniversary, Celtic Classic will crown a king and queen Saturday, highlighting the man and woman who helped raise the most money for the festival this year.

Highlights of the weekend include:

An Invitational Pipe Band Competition

The US National Highland Athletic Championships

The Showing of the Tartan parade

The 23rd Annual Fiddle Competition

A Children’s Cultural Activity Area

Celtic music and dance from traditional to modern twists

More than 250,000 visitors are expected at the Celtic Classic festival grounds this weekend.

According to the event’s website, it typically attracts more than 250,000 visitors to the grounds throughout the weekend, with the majority visiting from areas beyond the Lehigh Valley.

Susan Banks came from New Jersey, where she owns an Irish shop and says she looks forward to the event all year.

“My daughter is coming to work this one; it’s a tradition in our family that she comes up and helps me, and my customers come here,” Banks said. “I make new friends, I just – the excitement of this festival is beyond words. It’s my best festival. It’s the largest free Celtic festival in the world.”

This will be the event’s 18th year of holding the U.S. National Highland Games Championship, bringing top-qualifying and kilt-donning athletes throughout the world to compete in events such as hammer toss, caber (wooden pole) toss and weight challenges.

“I think it’s always important to keep the people that have come over from Ireland and their relatives down through the lines of people to keep their heritage alive and that’s what this is all about – the music, the sheep dogs,” Banks said.

“Really, it’s educational, the games – it’s just phenomenal to see some guy take that pole and flip it around and then the women throwing the rocks and doing everything that they do.”

Because of limited parking near the event, festival organizers recommend taking a shuttle from a location where parking is more available.


Current track