Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is a city known throughout the country for what it used to be. Once home to the beating heart of American industrialization, the giant Bethlehem Steel plant went quiet leaving the city in dire financial circumstances. In fact, Billy Joel’s famous song “Allentown” was supposedly written about Bethlehem, but the name just didn’t fit the tune as well, I guess.
But the impression that some people have of Bethlehem as a big industrial ghost town is simply not the case. Sure, it may not be one of country’s most important manufacturing areas anymore, but it is a terrific place full of cultural delights and rich in history. Music is at the core of Bethlehem’s appeal, and once a year the Celts takeover for a festival that brings people from all over the Mid-Atlantic to rediscover this still great city.
Bethlehem’s Celtic Classic, known by locals as Celticfest, is a tradition well into its third decade of existence. It brings together Celtic food, history, culture, and especially music, to create a weekend party that simply must be experienced. If you are like me, and you are a lover of Celtic music, this free event showcases some of the absolute best nationally renowned acts in the genre.
This year’s schedule was one of the most exciting in recent memory. As usual there were dozens of great acts. The headliners were Gaelic Storm, the band first made famous by their appearance in the film “Titanic”, but they have since gone on to produce some of the most enjoyable and fun releases in the Celtic music genre. Also in attendance were the Canadian band The Town Pants, a personal favorite of mine, as well as two artists featured on the APHR Jukebox; Charlie Zahm and Gerry Timlin. Besides a great Irish balladeer, Mr. Timlin also owns a terrific pub called the Shanacie which the American Public House Review featured earlier this year.
Like it is every year, the 2009 installment of Bethlehem’s Celtic Classic was terrific fun. There were great vendors selling Celtic gifts and music, wonderful food and drink, and entertainment aplenty. My thanks go out to all who make this amazing and free event happen every year.
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