There are two really big events this week–open house at The Irish Center in Philadelphia and the Celtic Classic, three days of music, highland games, and haggis eating in Bethlehem.
There won’t be any haggis at the Irish Center on Sunday, but there will be authentic Irish edibles from the Irish Coffee Shop in Upper Darby (try the sausage rolls—they’re amazing!), dancers from five different Irish step dancing schools who will not only perform but will show you how to do a few steps, and music all day featuring local talent including two-fifths of Blackthorn (John and Michael Boyce) and their singing sister, Karen Boyce McCollum; sean nos singer Terry Kane; McDermott’s Handy, a duo made up of Dennis Gormley and Kathy DeAngelo, and some of the talented young musicians from The Next Generation musical group.
Festivities start in the morning at 10 with a full Irish breakfast. Vince Gallagher will be broadcasting both his radio show and Marianne MacDonald’s show (she’s in Ireland) starting at 11. There’s also a scone-baking contest (just whip up your best bread and bring it by about 2 PM) and you may be able to pick up some baking tips from the authentic Irish bakers who are entering their scone. I got some yesterday from Jimmy Meehan of County Donegal, but since Irish Philadelphia is sponsoring the competition, I’m not entering. But Jimmy is!
Face painter and balloon artist Sue Foo will be there to turn your little animals into, well, animals. There are also crafts projects for the kids, and a poster contest on “Why I Love Being Irish.” Kids can bring a poster they already made, or make one there.
There are also dozens of raffle baskets, many of them very kid-centric. Winners of the Golden Raffle—special items such as a bodhran made by Irish political prisoners, a pendant made from a 1769 Irish coin, and a Celtic Cross painted on glass—will be picked around 5:30 PM.
In Bethlehem this weekend, you can hear the Hooligans, Jamison, Searson, Burning Bridget Cleary, Cassie and Maggie MacDonald, the John Whelan Band, the Kilmaine Saints, Timlin and Kane, and many more at Celtic Fest in Bethlehem. That’s when you’re not watching big burly men toss telephone poles or border collies herding sheep or trying haggis for the first time (tastes like liver).
On Saturday, Blackthorn is headlining the Norwood Community Day and Irish Festival in Norwood. Festivities start at 10 AM and run till 6 PM.
On Sunday, the Theresa Flanagan Band will be playing at McGillicuddy’s in Upper Darby and there’s a ballad session at Fergies in Philadelphia with John Byrne.
On Monday, the first in a series of Irish language classes (Donegal dialect) starts in the Falvey Library at Villanova. These classes are free.
On Tuesday, catch Dublin-born Imelda May (now of Northern Liberties) and her band, the Bellfuries, at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. Her first CD, “Love Tattoo,” has gone triple platinum in Ireland.
On Thursday, the High Kings will be performing at the Sellersville Theater.
On Friday, the Gloucester County AOH will be holding a fundraiser in memory of Damian Gallagher that provides scholarships to students at Gloucester County Catholic High School. Damien Gallagher, a Donegal native, was a student at the high school who died at the age of 23.
Next Saturday, plan to make a trip up to Limerick for the grand opening of the new Gaelic Athletic Association field. You can see Gaelic football, hurling, dancers from McDade Cara, with special guests that include the Deputy Consul General of Ireland, Anne McGillicuddy and Gareth Fitzsimons, chair of the national GAA board in the US. This field has been many years in the making, the result of lots of hard work and fundraising by the Philadelphia GAA. Go cheer them on!
Also on Saturday, October 4, two top Irish trad musicians Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daley will be performing at the Irish Center. This is a Philadelphia Ceili Group production.