By Derrick McKee
Dust off your flat-cap, buy a green shirt, and iron out your fun pants because my absolute favorite event of the year — the 19th Annual Wheeling Celtic Celebration — is taking over the entire Artisan Center for 12hours on Saturday, March 7, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. !
Not Celtic of either Irish, Scottish, or Welch descent? Don’t worry. This event is blast and represents an opportunity to experience the entertainment, food, and traditions of one of the world’s most admired and widespread cultures.
Still not convinced? Just ask my Lebanese-Italian friend, Ricci “O’Brien” Zambito. “I’ve been known to bust out my Larry Bird jersey for the Celtic Fest! Céad míle fáilte, erin go bragh, and top o’ the mornin’ to ya!”
The Celtic Celebration primarily takes place on the third floor of the Artisan Center, two floors up from River City Restaurant and Pub. Authentic Celtic entertainment takes place on the main stage all day long as thousands of patrons come and go for their favorite acts, all the while sipping slowly on Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, and the occasional Irish Coffee.
But don’t get the wrong idea: while the event offers plenty of “craic” (Irish for “fun, entertainment, and enjoyable wise-cracks”), it also offers plenty for families of all ages and sizes. Last year, the Children’s Museum of the Upper Ohio Valley offered a children’s activity area on the second floor from noon until 4 p.m..
Want to shop for that special “mick-knick-knack” for your home pub? Plenty of authentic vendors line the parameter with a wide selection of clothing, contemporary Celtic art, pub shirts, glassworks, jewelry, photography, and more. One year I even bought a barrel!
Entertainment typically consists of the Macdonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh, the Burke Conroy School of Irish Dance of Pittsburgh, and numerous musical acts ranging from full bands playing uptempo Irish favorites to acoustic groups performing traditional Irish instrumentals. Storytellers pass on the tradition of Celtic spoken lore from stage, and fiddlers dance while sawing.
The food features some must-tries, such as a Scotch Egg, which has become a favorite around my early morning WVU tailgates. It consists of a hard-boiled egg encased in sausage, baked, breaded, and fried. Give it a squirt of mustard, and you’ll be as happy as a Leprechaun. Cabbage and noodles, boxty (a very special potato pancake dish), colcannon, and a variety of other ethnic dishes are available as well. River City also offers their menu downstairs if ‘taters aren’t your thing.
So mark your calendars for a month from today, line up a babysitter or a ride to-and-from, and come join me for a day you won’t forget; that is until the forth or fifth Guinness!