Thousands of Celts of all ages will be in historic Bethlehem, Pennsylvania this weekend for the annual Celtic Classic Highland Games & Festival. Recently we spoke with executive director Jayne Ann Recker about what attendees can expect to experience.
What is your own ethnicity?
Irish & Italian. The Irish part is being questioned – I’m being told I am actually probably Scottish.
When and why did you get involved with the Festival?
1993 at the suggestion of a friend who saw a networking opportunity
What are your roles and responsibilities there?
I am the executive director of Celtic Cultural Alliance – the organization that presents the Celtic Classic Highland Games & Festival. I’m responsible for everything, including year round cultural programming, St. Patrick’s Day parade, volunteers, and fundraisers.
Why is it an important event for the community?
The Celts were one of the largest immigration groups in our area. Many came to work at Bethlehem Steel, railroads and even earlier. We have a very large Welsh community that founded several towns here.
Who traditionally attends the Festival?
We see more than 275,000 during the event weekend from all over the U.S., Canada and beyond. 55% are local, and 45% travel more than 20 miles to attend.
What can they expect this year?
Representation of all 7 Celtic nations thru music, dance, pipe bands, U.S. National Highland Games Championship, educational lectures and traditional competitions.
How has the event evolved through the years?
Since 1988 we have grown to the largest free Celtic festival in North America. We now host the U.S. National Highland Games Championship, world class musicians and continue to grow our venues and ad stages to accommodate the growing crowds.
Will you remain involved with the event in the years ahead?
That is my intention
How else are you involved with the Celtic community there?
We partner with local schools, historic organizations and other groups to keep the public educated.
Is enough being done to preserve and promote Celtic culture generally?
I believe there is quite a bit being done but there is always room for more!
What can we be doing better?
I think there is room for curriculum to educate on what the Celts brought to U.S. history. In our area over 30% of the population claim to have Celtic roots. This rich history needs to continue to be passed down.