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Celtic Fest 2021 - Back, and better than ever

Call it the luck of the Irish or the answer to prayer. Whatever the cause, everything worked out right for Celtic Fest 2021. The weather, which was sunny but mild and breezy, was ideal for an event that was largely outdoors. People responded by coming in big numbers.

A few performances were canceled at the last minute, but that happens when dozens of groups are scheduled to appear. Crowds were large, but orderly and polite, and while Guinness, Smithwicks and Harp beers were available, public drunkenness was not an apparent problem. As my late mother-in-law, an immigrant from a village in County Cork, might have said, taking it all together, “Saints be praised!”

Events were concurrent and nonstop at a half-dozen venues, forcing a reviewer to pick and choose which to enjoy, which to miss. An opening parade featuring 10 bands of pipers and drummers (and sometimes brass -- think the Liberty HS Grenadiers) stepped off from City Center at 11:30, led by distinguished guests to the Lehigh Valley, the U.S. Naval Academy Pipes and Drums Band. Ramrod straight and in perfect step, the Middies would have won any competition for outstanding marching, and their performance of Celtic music and dances later in the morning received a lot of praise. “Hope they come back,” one observer commented.

After the bands gathered at the Highland Field (aka the large field at the junction of Main and W. Lehigh Streets.) for the official opening of Celtic Fest, the four Singing Sergeants of the U.S. Air Force Band delivered a moving rendition, a capella, of the National Anthem, bringing numerous veterans in the crowd to attention. The Highland Field was later the venue of the Highland Games, which are the for-real national championship competition in this sport.

For most guests at Celtic Fest the chief activities, in no particular order, appeared to be listening to music, eating food, and shopping at dozens of booths featuring t-shirts, Irish sweaters, jewelry and every other sort of Celtic “merch.” Merchants who had been to Celtic Fest for 20 years reported that they were having their best year ever.

PRESS PHOTOS BY DENNIS GLEW The Midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy Pipes and Drums Band step out from City Center.
Above: Following the Middies in the parade to open Celtic Fest were the Grenadiers of Liberty High School.
At noon on Saturday the lines for lunch stretched all the way from one side of the grounds to the bridge across the Monocacy.
Soda bread! Cover a slice with soft, rich butter and you'll think you're back in your grandparents' house. There was a winner in Celtic Fest's soda bread competition, but it must have been a very hard call. Our Celtic Classic coverage continues on page A13 and A14.
Seventeen Celtic clans and societies assembled in Celtic Heritage Hollow, part of Celtic Fest's goal of educating the community about the breadth and diversity of the Celtic traditions. Peter Kish, representing the Scottish Society of the Lehigh Valley, brought along his granddaughter, Aislin.
Left: Kennedy's Kitchen attracted a full tent of listeners to its performance of Irish music.
When Kennedy's Kitchen played jigs and reels, younger members of the crowd couldn't sit still. Louie Fitzko of Bethlehem brought his mother onto the dance floor to join the other kids, who were moving so fast they were a blur.
Runa, another Celtic band, recalled that 523 days had passed since they were last on a stage. When they played, youngsters were mesmerized.