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A Highland fling. September 23, 2010

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. If you live within reach of scenic Bethlehem, PA, and you (like yours truly) have a weakness for men in kilts, and/or love watching the Highland Games, Pipe Band competitions with plenty of bagpipe action, great Celtic music, and/or all things Celtic, don’t miss this weekend’s 23rd Annual Celtic Classic. It’s held in the historic Moravian section of Bethlehem, so you can see some marvelous, unique 18th-Century architecture while you’re strolling around taking in the sights, examining Celtic crafts, listening to Celtic music, or wolfing down traditional Celtic food (and, of course, beer).

The Celtic Classic kicks off on Friday afternoon around 4:30 with a Border collie exhibition, invitational caber toss, haggis-eating contest, Irish step dancing, and plenty of music, including Celtic groups like Blackwater, Glengarry Bhoys, Enter the Haggis, and Barleyjuice. The action continues on Saturday, beginning at 9:30 a.m. (yow!). But don’t look for me and our friend Ben to show up much before 4, when our favorite events happen in rapid succession: the caber toss, Border collie exhibition, drum major competition, and massed (pipe) bands. After all that excitement, OFB and I will be in major need of refreshment. Please don’t tell anyone, but we’re planning to bypass the haggis and head up to the main street to eat at the wonderful Kenyan restaurant, Alando’s Kitchen, instead.

Let me say a word in praise of the caber toss, in which men perform—or attempt to perform—a feat that is seemingly beyond human agility and endurance. In the caber toss, a man must lift a pole the diameter of a telephone pole and up to 18 feet long straight up off the ground, run forward, keeping it balanced upright, then toss it end-over-end so it lands in a straight line from the direction he’s facing. The sight of kilt-clad men hoisting telephone poles aloft in this fashion is incomprehensible—your brain can’t credit what your eyes are seeing. Admittedly, most of the athletes fail to make much headway with the caber, but we’ve seen one, James McGoldrick, who could make the toss almost every time. It’s a thrilling thing to watch.

The massed bands are thrilling, too, at least if you love drum tattoos and bagpipes (not to say the aforementioned men in kilts, and gentlemen, there are girls in kilts in those bands as well). Seeing the bands saunter onto the field in perfectly synchronized formation, hearing the drums pounding and the bagpipe music swelling, would make anyone’s heart beat faster. You can instantly see why the British used these bands to pipe their troops to battle.

The Celtic Classic continues on Sunday, also beginning at 9:30 a.m. (There’s an ecumenical service at 10 if you’d like to combine church and festival attendance.) More Highland games, more bagpipes, more kilts, more collies, more Celtic music, dance, food, crafts, souvenirs, and fun, culminating in a performance by The Red Hot Chilli Pipers at 6:30.

If you’d like to bring the kids, please don’t be daunted by the ubiquitous beer: The Celtic Classic is very family-friendly, with tons of fun events specifically for kids as well as performances the whole family will love. Much to OFB’s horror, I always like to get a spray-on Celtic tattoo at the Classic, lining up proudly with the 8-to-12 crowd and choosing my Welsh dragon or Celtic knot with glee. (Hey, with Scottish and Irish as well as British ancestry, I figure I’m entitled. But I still haven’t persuaded OFB to get one.)

So come one, come all, and enjoy a Highland fling! You can find out all about the festival, get a complete schedule of events, and see lots of photos of the goings-on at the official website, http://www.celticfest.org/. And should you happen to see a short, enthusiastic dark-haired woman dragging around a tall, rather stunned-looking blond-haired man, please come up and introduce yourselves. We’d love to meet you!

             ‘Til next time,




1. Alan - September 24, 2010

We have a couple of kilt wearing hippies in our valley. They would cure you of your kilt obsession in short order (short being the operative word al’round…)

The beer, tossing great logs, and general great music sounds great. (We go to the Dublin Irish Festival here in Central Ohio for our celtic fix…)

Hope you had a good time and that it wasn’t too breesy for the kilt wearing brave’os…

Eeewww, Alan, please don’t kill my fantasies! As for those athletes in kilts, don’t you know they wear those football pants under the kilts in case they fly up during the events, so at least that’s one thing they don’t have to worry about!

2. Alan - September 26, 2010

Real men don’t…

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