Robert Burns Supper raises money for ‘Folk in Schools’

Nolan Krebs

The Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center will be hosting the annual Robert Burns Supper on Friday, Jan. 25 as a fundraiser for the Folk in Schools Initiative.

The event is held each year to celebrate the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns. The events were originally an all-male event, and full of speeches, poems and music, said director of the Heritage Center Dan Truckey.

“In the early 19th century, Robert Burns societies throughout Scotland began holding memorial dinners for the great poet on his birthday,” Truckey said. “They came to be known simply as Burns Suppers and are now held all over the world on January 25, wherever there are Scots and lovers of Burns’ poetry.”

Burns, who lived from 1759 to 1796, is known for his poetry that both pioneered the Romantic movement and helped preserve the Scots language at a time when British culture threatened to overcome the Scottish people.

While they were once a solemn tradition, most contemporary Burns Suppers are much more jovial, Truckey said.

“Today, [Burns Suppers] combine both serious poems and speeches with the completely hilarious,” Truckey said. “They were once defined as being ‘ribald literary soirees,’ and that would definitely describe our event.”

The event, which will feature music, readings and speeches, is also being held to raise money for the Beaumier Center’s Folk in Schools Initiative, Truckey said.

The program provides funding for folk musicians and artists to visit schools, conduct workshops and perform in the Upper Peninsula.

“We are planning in the next few months to have several folk artists visit schools, and the funds raised at this event will go to that effort,” Truckey said. “The ideas is that the best way to preserve traditional arts is for the artists to interact with young people and this program, we hope, will help to get a new generation of people involved in folk arts.”

According to local musician Ty Dettloff, bringing folk art into a classroom can be great for kids’ creativity.

“It’s great to see traditional music in schools,” Dettloff said. “Discovering music that might seem simple and gaining appreciation for the preservation of music’s roots at a young age can spark some great innovation.”

A particularly unique part of the Burns Supper is dedicated to the ceremonial cutting of the Scottish delicacy haggis, which is a pudding made of sheep’s pluck, or the heart, liver and lungs.

“The haggis is paraded through the banquet hall by the chef and a bagpiper, and then brought to the head of the table,” Truckey said. “A person then recites Burns’ poem, ‘An Address to a Haggis,’ and at a certain point sticks a dagger into the haggis’ skin to allow the stuffing to spill out. Many people are scared to try haggis[…]but it is truly delicious.”

The Robert Burns Supper will begin at 6 p.m. in the Great Lakes Rooms of the UC and reservations are required for entry.

For more information about the event or the Folk in Schools program, email Truckey at [email protected]