The sun was shining, the rich smell of fried food filled the air, and the different styles of kilts was unnumbered. My group of equally inexperienced friends walked across the bridge on the left side of South Bethlehem to check out everything that was the famous 2016 Bethlehem Celtic Classic Festival located on the North side of Bethlehem along the canal. While walking, we passed more festival goers with their arms wrapped around their new goodies. After researching and interrogating some of our other friends about where to go, what to eat, and when to go first, we had a general idea of what we wanted to get done in the two hours we had to explore. I was not only ready for an adventure, but I was also very hangry.
Knowing we needed at least ten tickets to really get our hands dirty in Celtic Fest food, I opted for buying twenty . The price per ticket seemed a little steep at first but when I realized everything I could do with them, I knew it was all worth it. Note to self and others: Next time I’ll remember that it is crucial to get there in the early afternoon so that once you arrive, the events are in full swing and the crowd is pumped.
We spent more time talking about what the throwers had previously volunteered for in the previous years and then decided to get the famous Aw Shucks corn together. I felt compelled to document my shining moment with this special corn- they pulled the husks of the corn down to create an Au natural handle and then put them in the oven full of boiling water. A group of ladies artistically painted the hot, cooked corn with melted butter and I saw it drip down the bright yellow kernels and onto the husk. Side note: it was a good thing they had gloves on and wrapped paper towels around the husk handle otherwise they would have had butter dripping down their arms, but for some people that may not have been a bad thing. The last station of people was the shaker station. Bright red powder flurried from their shakers and fragrant, chunky Parmesan cheese fell onto the corn, any excess fell onto a mound of spice on a pan below. We traded tickets with the woman manning the ticket box and were given corn-on-the-cob-extreme-deliciousness. I watched my friend take a bite and corn juice jetted everywhere. With my red-orange lips stained with spice, I realized that this was the toughest part: eating the corn oh-so gracefully without leaving streaks or spurts of spice and corn juice everywhere.
We proceeded to check out the little shop stands that were strategically placed right next to the food. I see what they did there. Besides staring at the homemade cookies and biscuits, I noticed that there were trinkets galore! Precious stones, craft jewelry, scarves, clothes, and even swords lined the pathway. There were so many things to buy but as a college student, my pockets were a little barren to consider an investment like the sword my eyes lingered on. What can I say? I saw a lot of people with swords on their backs. I probably didn’t need it but there’s always tomorrow so I decided to sleep on that purchase.
Update: I did not buy the sword. To be honest, I completely forgot about it when I attempted making the Aw Shucks corn spice and came sufficiently close. Not as good, but it will have to do until next year.
After lingering around for a bit longer, two of my friends parted ways but I stayed with my boyfriend. Feeling snacky, we decided to use our leftover tickets to try something a little bit more traditional. We settled on the Irish Nachos. The name doesn’t say much but I did say they were a little bit more traditional. Irish Nachos entailed a mass of chip fries smothered in gravy, cheese sauce, lamb, and beef with a green onion garnish. They were amazing! We inhaled them within minutes while watching a bunch of different bands play like The Gothard Sisters and No Irish Need Apply.
During the walk back, it was starting to hit me that I was a senior and won’t have the easy option to be able to experience this festival again. I kicked myself for not showing up earlier but appreciated everything I was able to see and especially, eat. If my stomach were any bigger, I would have spent another hour contemplating what to try as my last meal of the day. Between the jumbo turkey legs, traditional Irish meals in a cup, and even the eclectic Haggis, (or really anything from the authentic Scottish Cottage stand for that matter), there were so many traditional and non-traditional options that any foodie would appreciate. Come with an empty stomach, you’ll thank me later!
This festival is so enveloped in Irish culture and is definitely something that will entertain you and if you’re not Irish, will make you appreciate another culture and its traditions. If you are around next year during this beautiful time of year and find yourself looking for something to do, the Celtic Classic Festival is three days of Irish fun that you won’t want to miss. Check out the links to the incredible vendors and musicians we saw if you want to find out more about them! The Celtic Cultural Alliance has been hosting this event for years and definitely deserve so much recognition for their effort and passion for establishing this tradition and sharing their culture with the rest of us. If you’re looking to volunteer at the next festival, head over to the CCA website to learn more about the opportunities! Please feel free to comment about your own experiences at the Celtic Classic, anything else that I should explore next time, or if you have any questions about what else it has to offer.
Thanks for reading about my experience and helping me reflect on it! It was a truly not-to-miss event that I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to go.
Bye for now folks!