TRAVERSE CITY — Robert Burns will have not one or two but three nights to his name this year in northern Michigan.
Scotland’s national poet will be celebrated Jan. 24 at Sleder’s Family Tavern in Traverse City by the St. Andrews Society of Northwestern Michigan, Jan. 25 at the Little Traverse Inn in Maple City, and Jan. 26 at City Park Grill in Petoskey by the Robert Emmet Society.
“Robert Burns Night” is a new event for the Robert Emmet Society, which was founded in 1990 to bring a statue of the Irish nationalist and poet, Robert Emmet, to his namesake, Emmet County. Society chairman Ed Karmann said celebrating Emmet’s “Celtic cousin” this year is another way to raise money for the society’s pet project, sending North Central Michigan College students to Galway, Ireland, for a semester of study.
“To the best of our knowledge, no one in the Petoskey area has done a Robert Burns Night,” said Karmann, owner of County Emmet Celtic Shop in Petoskey. “It doesn’t revolve around Emmet, but the Irish are Celts, the Scots are Celts, so it’s kind of like the same family, so to speak.”
The Burns events will feature Scottish music, highland dancing, poetry readings and, of course, haggis. The traditionally Scottish dish consists of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or a calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal and seasonings and boiled in the animal’s stomach.
“It’s always interesting to see the look on people’s faces,” said Karmann, who serves canned haggis from his store at Petoskey’s downtown open house in December.
The “piping in” of the haggis, followed by a recitation of Burns’ humorous “Address to a Haggis,” are highlights of Robert Burns Night events worldwide.
“A traditional Burns Supper follows a structure,” said Graeme Leask, the Scottish-born owner of Little Traverse Inn, which is hosting its second annual event on the poet’s birthday. “There’s a call to eat, a grace, the haggis is paraded through the building by a bagpiper, there’s an address to the haggis. Post-meal is an address called ‘Immortal Memory’ and then you close the night out with two toasts: one the gents toast to the ladies in great reverence, and then the lassies retort to the gents in great disdain.”