As spring settles in, festivities with COVID-19 protocols are becoming more popular. Whether it’s outdoor dining or organized events, Bethlehem has plenty of opportunities for community members to get out and enjoy the city safely.
Bethlum Go Bragh, is an event that does just that.
Hosted by the Downtown Bethlehem Association in partnership with the Celtic Cultural Alliance, the festival is a community celebration of St. Patrick’s Day—featuring a cocktail trail, Irish elves, scavenger hunts, food, entertainment and more. It is taking place from March 13- 21 in the North Bethlehem Historic District.
Tammy Wendling, Downtown Bethlehem association manager, played a key role in planning the festival. Before COVID-19, St. Patrick’s Day had typically been a huge celebration on the North Side.
She said it was important to keep the festivities alive while complying with COVID-19 guidelines.
“We wanted to have some fun and festive things to do because people have been cooped up for a while,” Wendling said.
The cocktail to-go trail is available for those 21 and older and features different merchants and restaurants in the historic district. There are two trails that people can sign up for on a specific date and time, each is monitored and there is a limited number of people allowed on the trail every hour.
For those that are under 21, or who chose not to drink, there are various scavenger hunts people can take part in, with clues hidden across the Historic District.
Wendling noted while this is a fun event for all, it is also critical for supporting local businesses. Due to COVID-19, local businesses have missed out on various seasonal revenue drivers.
Joanne Smida, the owner of Hand Cut Crystal, said she looks forward to these events. The family-owned shop is one of the many businesses on the cocktail trail.
“For us it’s a definite invite into our store for people to look around and sometimes they will come back and make a purchase later,” Smida said. “It’s a great advertising opportunity.”
Smida said Hand Cut Crystal has participated in other trails before, such as a chocolate trail in February. She said people have responded positively and the atmosphere during the festivals has been great.
“People who come on the trails are coming to have fun and it’s uplifting to see,” Smida said.
Jaime Achberger, a cocktail trail attendee, was out with a group of friends enjoying the event the day of its opening. She said they love these crawls and participate in them every year.
“Our favorite part is getting together with good friends, being outside and supporting our community,” she said.
After planning multiple events throughout the pandemic, Wendling is confident that Bethlum Go Bragh will continue to run smoothly.
“This is our sixth trial since COVID started, so we’ve worked through any kinks we’ve had in the past,” Wendling said.
She is hopeful that spreading the event over nine days will encourage people to come out at different times and restaurants and merchants will get more revenue and exposure than if it happened just one weekend.
The scheduling of the cocktail trail also minimizes the overcrowding that typically happens.
“I love that it’s staggered this year,” Smida said. “Even prior to COVID, it sometimes got a little too much and regular customers were overwhelmed with how many people were in the store at one time, so it’s nice that people come in waves.”
Achberger said she also loved the protocols and the event was great and successful.
“They really did an amazing job,” Achberger said.