Celtic Classic, Highland Games bring thousands to Bethlehem despite dreary weather

Written by on September 25, 2022

Celtic Classic, Highland Games bring thousands to Bethlehem despite dreary weather

By Jay Bradley
September 25, 2022

Folks stroll beneath the Hill to Hill Bridge in Bethlehem on Sunday during the 35th annual Celtic Classic. (Photo | Jay Bradley)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The rain didn’t stop the crowds from coming to Bethlehem for the 35th Celtic Classic over the weekend.

Thousands came out from the Lehigh Valley and beyond – many donning kilts – to hear traditional pipes, see Irish dancing, eat specialty food like haggis, and watch the unique sports.

Attendee Nicole Boncik said the two-and-a-half day festival is one of her favorites in the area, and she was not deterred by the rainy forecast on the final day Sunday.

“It’s more condensed so you feel like you have to come, weather or not,” she said.

Bonick said highlights of the weekend were the parade, the Highland Games and the varied Celtic tastes and sounds from the British Isles.

“A lot of the live music is excellent,” Boncik said. “The Kilmaine Saints are probably our favorite; Glengarry Bhoys, we love them. [Also] the food and drink of course.”

Organizers say the free festival is a labor of love. On Saturday, to commemorate the 35th anniversary, they crowned a king and queen for the first time.

Celtic Classic began Friday afternoon and ended Sunday evening. It put the spotlight on events like:

  • An invitational pipe band competition;
  • The U.S. 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 ranging from traditional to modern twists.

John Van Beuren, of Idaho, was winner of the nine-event Highland Games at Celtic Classic 2022 in Bethlehem. “It’s the only games here where you feel like you know you are the center of attention,” he said. (Photo | Jay Bradley)

The final day ended with bands, border collies, music and competition such as caber throwing, cheered on by crowds of onlookers as each log fell.

John Van Beuren from Idaho took the victory in the nine-event competition. He said despite last year being his first time competing at Celtic Classic, it made an impact on him.

“I already knew from the get-go that I have to come back to this one,” Van Beuren said. “This is my favorite festival to go to. It’s the only games here where you feel like you know you are the center of attention. And it’s because the fans — everybody’s a great supporter of the games.”

Attendees could drift between four different stages playing traditional Celtic music ranging from pipe bands to modern Celtic rock. Many came home with affection for their heritage, be it Irish, Scottish, Brit or another Celtic group – and leaving with merchandise to show it.


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