It is time once again for bagpipes, border collies, tartans and haggis in downtown Bethlehem. The landmark 25th annual Celtic Classic takes over the festival grounds under and near the Hill-to-Hill Bridge on Friday evening and runs through Sunday.
The festival run by the staff and volunteers of Bethlehem's Celtic Cultural Alliance typically draws about 275,000 people to the city during its three days, making it one of the largest Celtic cultural festivals in North America.
As there has been for much of its history, the festival has a little bit of something for everyone – sports, food, drink, music, dancing and shopping. There will even be a kids’ craft tent on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
The Glengarry Bhoys are one of about 20 acts that will perform on four stages that will host continuous entertainment during the festival’s three days. Other Celtic-flavored favorites such as Brother, Scythian and Burning Bridget Cleary will also be appearing.
At the Celtic Classic, music also means some spirited competition. The Celtic Classic Invitational Pipe Band competition will include 15 bands that will perform on Saturday and Sunday. The 15th annual Celtic Classic Junior Fiddle Competition will take place Saturday morning at the Charles A. Brown Ice House.
For a completely different type of competition, there is Friday night’s Haggis Eating Contest, which will take place on the Highland Field shortly after the festival opens at 5:15 p.m.
For the sixth year, the Celtic Classic will play host to the U.S. National Highland Athletic Championships Saturday and Sunday on the Highland Field at Spring and Main streets.
The 10 best Highland games athletes in the world – including current world champion Matt Vincent and 2011 U.S. national champion Daniel McKim – are all expected to be in the competition.
Other highlights of the festival include whisky tasting, a highland dance competition and the Showing of the Tartans Parade and Opening Ceremonies on Saturday.
Admission to the festival is free, though tickets to purchase food are $1 each.
If you go, you can park at the Martin Tower lot at 1170 Eighth Ave. and catch a shuttle bus to the festival grounds. The shuttle costs $4 per day for adults and $2 for children under age 10.
Paid parking is also available at the North Street and Walnut Street parking decks and the W. Union Boulevard parking lot.
For a complete schedule of events at the festival, visit www.celticfest.org.
Celtic Classic also offers a free smart phone app for iPhone and Android to help you plan your visit and navigate your way around the festival grounds. Check out the description on iTunes.