For years now, the last weekend in September has meant one thing in Bethlehem: Celtic Classic, the largest festival of Irish and Celtic music, sports and culture in North America, is on.
Every year, over three days, about 250,000 people descend on the festival grounds at Main, Spring and Lehigh streets and under the Hill-to-Hill Bridge to watch he-man feats of strength, hear the bagpipes play and, yes, maybe, have a few nips of whiskey.
The 26th annual festival begins Friday evening with the traditional Haggis Bowl—a haggis-eating contest—at 5:15 p.m.
On Saturday, the Showing of the Tartan Parade will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Main Street, leading a procession down to the Highland Field where the U.S. National Highland Games Championships will already be under way.
The festival will continue into early Sunday evening with six stages of performers—mostly music and dance, but also a little bit of comedy. For more information log on to www.celticfest.org or download the free Celtic Classic Festival iPhone app.
Of course, if haggis, bagpipes and whiskey aren’t your cup of tea, there is a lot else going on in Bethlehem this weekend, including performances by two big names in comedy and one of the all-time great classic rock bands:
- Comic Tracy Morgan, best known for his years as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” and then on “30 Rock,” brings his stand-up act to the Musikfest Café for two shows Friday at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $49 and $44 in advance and $54 and $49 the day of the show.
- Jazz-rock icons Steely Dan bring their classic sound to the Sands Bethlehem Event Center at 8 p.m. Friday as part of their Mood Swings: 8 Miles to Pancake Day tour. The appearance in Bethlehem will be the next to last before a seven-night engagement at New York’s Beacon Theatre. Tickets are from $65 to $145.
- Lehigh University’s Department of Theatre brings Euripides’ ancient Greek tragedy of vengeance and power Medea to life at the Zoellner Arts Center on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Click here for ticket information.
- Saturday is National Public Lands Day, an opportunity for people to volunteer at a national, state or local park to participate in a cleanup or beautification effort. There are 40 such projects going on across Pennsylvania on Saturday, including Cedar Creek Park and Muhlenberg Lake in Allentown. More details here.
- Saturday is also Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day Live, a day when hundreds of museums across the country throw their doors open for free. Dozens of museums across Pennsylvania are participating—including Bethlehem’s Moravian Museum, the Sun Inn and the 1750 Smithy. More details here.
- If you’re planning to spend part of your Saturday night at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center, you might be a redneck. These days, Larry the Cable Guy may have outstripped him in terms of popularity, but Jeff Foxworthy was the original “blue collar” comedian, telling jokes about rural life with a Southern accent. He’s booked for two shows at the Event Center—one at 7 and the other at 9:30. Tickets are from $49.50 to $95.
- Hardcore Musikfest devotees already know about the MarchFourth Marching Band, which will appear at the Musikfest Café at 7 p.m. Sunday. Their pre-show marches down Main Street and through SteelStacks have become festival legend. If you haven’t seen them, understand that M4 (what the band’s fans all them) is nothing like any marching band you have ever seen or heard. They do have traditional percussion and brass, but they also have electric bass and guitars; play rock, jazz and funk; then add sexy dancers and stilt-walkers to the mix for a genre-busting good time. Tickets are $27, $22 and $17.