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Welcome 35th annual highland games!

The Celtic Classic Highland Games & Festival begins its 35th year this weekend, celebrating the cultures of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Bethlehem residents are joined by visitors from across the country and Europe to participate in old family traditions, attracting 250,000 festivalgoers each year.

The Celtic Cultural Alliance organizes traditional competitions and musical features each year such as piping, Irish dance, and haggis-eating contest, attracting athletes small, big and hungry.

This year will also feature scotch tastings, and poetry and youth fiddle contests.

The event begins Friday and sets the tone Saturday morning with the haggis and caber toss events, culminating with the Tartan Parade down Main Street to Highland Field, which will be surrounded by themed food and merchandise vendors.

“With the outstanding support we’ve received from the community and from our sponsors this year’s festival is poised to be a celebration of Celtic heritage while still remaining a free family friendly event,” said Executive Director of Celtic Cultural Alliance Jayne Ann Recker.

Additionally, Celtic Classic will feature cultural presentations in Celtic Heritage Hollow, located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter. Highlights include music workshops by the Steel City Rovers, a Scottish shortbread baking competition, a lecture on the history of kilts by Rocky Roeger, owner of USA Kilts and representatives of Celtic clans and societies. Children will enjoy the Celtic crafts in the activity tent.

Celtic Classic runs from Friday through Sunday in downtown Historic Bethlehem. For more information log on to www.celticfest.org.

PRESS PHOTOS BY MARK KIRLIN One of the more popular events is the pipe band competitions. Above, a piper from the Mohawk Valley Frasers Pipe Band plays in the 2019 competition. That year the band, founded in 1973 in Rome, N.Y., won first place in the grade 4 pipe competition.
From 2019, the Ceol Neamh Pipe Band's drum corps and midsection marches by. Each pipe band is made up of two parts that include bagpipes with the other part called the drum corps and mid-section.
Members of the O'Grady Quinlan Academy of Irish Dance perform every year. The academy is located in Easton with another studio located in Allentown.
Jennifer Curreri of the band Emish performs on flute to an excited audience during the 2019 festival. Curreri plays flute, trumpet, whistles and provides vocals.
The festival brings out good crowds that enjoyed a variety of food choices with vendors that were lined up under the bridge along the Monocacy Creek. The yearly festival averages nearly 300,000 attendees. According to Celticfest.org, 40 percent of the festival's patrons are from the Lehigh Valley with 60 percent coming from areas throughout the United States and abroad.