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Soggy kilts: Tropical Storm Ophelia makes its mark on Celtic Classic in Bethlehem

Celtic Classic Rain
Micaela Hood
Attendees at the Celtic Classic and Highland Games Festival paired plaid tartans with umbrellas and rain jackets on Saturday.

  • Tropical Storm Ophelia did not put a damper on people's spirits at the 36th Celtic Classic and Highland Games Festival in Bethlehem
  • Attendees sought shelter inside the Ice House, the Grand Pavilion tent and underneath a bridge
  • The festival had to cancel its annual Showing of the Tartan parade

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — The rain from Tropical Storm Ophelia didn't stop attendees from drinking and dancing at the Celtic Classic on Saturday.
"It always rains in Ireland. It doesn't bother me one bit," Dublin native, Declan O'Kleary of New York City, said while waiting in line for a pint of beer. "This isn't even that much of a storm."

The budding musician made the 80-minute trek to watch a friend compete in the U.S. Highland Games Championship, one of the main attractions at the festival, which is in its 36th year and organized by the Celtic Cultural Alliance (CCA).

Another popular event, the Showing of the Tartan Parade — scheduled to begin Saturday morning — was canceled because of the weather forecast.

Youth fiddlers at Celtic Classic

Fiddlers in training

Over at the Ice House, a handful of student fiddlers wowed the audience during the festival's youth fiddle competition, which began at 9 a.m.

The fiddlers, who competed in the junior (13 years old and under) and open categories (14-18 years old) were ranked on their basic playing technique (bowing, rhythm and tempo), choice of tunes and level of difficulty.

As they strummed the tunes for judges — a mix of traditional Celtic dance songs known as jigs, reels, hornpipes and schottishes — the crowd clapped and stomped their feet, adding some liveliness to an otherwise dreary day.

Lehigh Valley High School Charter for the Arts freshman Adelai Gustavson, 14, was the winner in the open division.

She recalled feeling "shocked" that her performance, a mix of three songs, included the Scottish air, "Roslin Castle," an Irish jig called "Lieutenant Maguire's," and "Frank's Reel," won over the judges.

"This is my fifth year playing the fiddle and it's my primary instrument. Since I was really little I wanted to play violin, but it was only until I was playing for two years that I really decided to focus on Celtic music," she said. "It was something I had been surrounded by my entire life and my whole family loves it."

Micaela Hood
Lehigh Valley Charter High School of the Arts' freshman Adelai Gustasvon won the open division at the Celtic Classic Youth Fiddle Competition.

'Could be much worse'

Most of the attendees matched their plaid kilts with dark raincoats and convened under a bridge next to vendor tents, Donegal Square and U.S.A Kilt or in the Grand Pavilion where the Dave North Trio kicked off the day's concerts at 12:30 p.m.

Micaela Hood
Festivalgoers at the Celtic Classic on Saturday wore rain jackets with their plaid tartans and kilts.

"It's the driest place we can be, but it could be much worse. I thought it would be more windy," Debra Sutcliffe, of Minersville said while sitting under the giant white tent. "My husband is getting us drinks and we are going to enjoy the day with our pints and not much fuss."

The Celtic Classic runs through Sunday, Sept. 24.

Along with the entertainment, there is plenty of shopping and eats like fish and chips, haggis and shepherd's pie.

For info, click here.

Youth fiddle competition at the Celtic Classic