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Celtic pride: St. Patrick's Day Sláinte celebration in Bethlehem

Slainte part 2
The Sláinte festival in Bethlehem will feature Irish whiskey and Guinness tastings, a fiddle competition and Irish dancing. The St. Patrick's Day celebration runs March 16-18 in Bethlehem.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — ArtsQuest is going green with the return of the Sláinte festival.

The fest was held for the first time last year by ArtsQuest, McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Donegal Square. For 2023, it is slated for the weekend of Thursday, March 16, to Saturday, March 18, with a lineup of traditional Irish dancing, music, food and whiskey.

  • Sláinte festival celebrates St. Patrick's Day from Thursday, March 16, to Saturday, March 18, at ArtsQuest
  • Activities include a whiskey tasting and food pairing, fiddle competition, contra dancing and Celtic music
  • Celtic musicians are invited to perform at an open jam session or compete in a youth fiddler contest

What's on tap in 2023

Last year's festival was held over four days, but has been scaled down to three because of a "room space conflict."

There are, however, some additions to the entertainment schedule.

"We’re excited to add contra dancing to the schedule this year," Addyson Young, a programmer at ArtsQuest, said. "Contra dancing is an energetic dance form performed to the traditional music of Ireland and America. We’ll have live music and a caller on stage to teach the dances. No partner or experience required."

"We’re excited to have this session include both our local Lehigh Valley Celtic musicians as well as professional and international musicians who are a part of our Sláinte lineup such as Oisin Diarmada of Téada."
Addyson Young, programmer at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem

Damien Stenson
Téada performs at Sláinte on Friday, March 17 at ArtsQuest in Bethlehem.

There also will be an open jam session for Celtic musicians from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

"Commonly referred to as 'sessions,' these types of open music gatherings allow musicians of all levels to play their tunes and learn new ones," Young said.

"We’re excited to have this session include both our local Lehigh Valley Celtic musicians as well as professional and international musicians who are a part of our Sláinte lineup, such as Oisin Diarmada of Téada."

Musicians from Lehigh Valley will compete in the second annual fiddle competition held on Saturday, March 18 at the Sláinte festival in Bethlehem.

Whiskey and wings

Neville Gardner, owner of the Red Stag Pub and Donegal Square, and executive chef Jill Oman will hold a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Thursday that will pair whiskeys from Ireland and Scotland along with a four-course meal.

The menu includes honey and vanilla sea glazed sea scallops (paired with Balvenie Caribbean Cask single malt Scotch whisky), hazelnut and currant jam burger sliders (paired with Redbreast 21 Irish whiskey), smoked whiskey wings and charred pineapple salsa (paired with Teeling Blackpitts Irish whiskey), and triple chocolate cheesecake (paired with Glenmorangie Signet Scotch whisky).

Gardner, who grew up in Northern Ireland, will lead a second whiskey tasting (accompanied by a history lesson on the liquor and how St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on the Emerald Isle) at a palette and pour event at 1 p.m. Saturday.

All tasting attendees will get a Sláinte-logo souvenir Glencairn glass and ground coffee beans and chocolate pieces will be provided as palette cleansers.

Tickets for the tastings are available for each individual day as well as a two-day pass.

Pour the perfect pint

Sample pours of Guinness Extra Stout (1801), Guinness Foreign Extra (1810), Guinness Draught in a Can (1958), Guinness Blonde (2017), Guinness Nitro Cold Brew Coffee (2021) and Guinness Zero (2022) will be available.

Each tasting will run 60 - 75 minutes, and while supplies last. Tickets cost $19 per person (must be age 21 or older to participate).

Fiddlers face-off

Music will fill the air at the second annual youth fiddle competition, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Fiddlers will be divided into two categories: 13 and under and 14 to 18.

Each musician will have six minutes to play tunes of their choosing from Celtic origins and may bring another musician to provided accompaniment.

Admission is free.

The grand prize winner will receive $100.

Registration is $19and includes one Saturday pass to the festival.

Musical acts

Heron Valley
Heron Valley will perform on Friday, March 17 at the Sláinte festival in Bethlehem.

The concert lineup includes performances by Dave Fry, Poor Man's Gambit, The Chivalrous Crickets, 99 Stringz and the Young Dubliners.

Check out the full list of performers.

Celebrating the Irish in the Valley

Organizers of the Sláinte festival have partnered with the Celtic Cultural Alliance, which produces the region's widely attended Celtic Classic Highland Games and Festival. That event takes place Sept. 22-24 in Bethlehem.

Celtic Classic, now in its 36th year, celebrates all things Irish and will feature music, a Haggis bowl, tartan parade, pipe bands, whiskey master class, shortbread-baking competition, youth fiddle competition, and U.S. National Highlands Games championship.