By Emma Castleberry
Asheville Sister Cities will host its annual Robert Burns Night Supper on Thursday, January 25, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Asheville – Biltmore. “Burns Night is a world-wide celebration of Scottish heritage and traditions as represented by celebrating the birthday of Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns,” says Tom Good, a volunteer for the event. “Burns lived at a time of drastic transition for the Scots as their culture and traditions were subsumed by the union with England. Burns devoted the end of his life to preserving these traditions of freedom, love of country, nature and life through song and poetry, and was thus seen as an embodiment of Scottish culture.”
Burns Night is a national holiday in Scotland, where it has been celebrated since 1801. The event creates a natural fundraising opportunity for Asheville Sister Cities and a chance for Asheville to celebrate with its Scottish sister city of Dunkeld and Birnam. “Another major reason Burns Night was selected is because of the strong colonial ties Western North Carolina has with the Scots,” says Good. Almost three percent of North Carolinians are self-identified Ulster Scots, a higher percentage than any other state in the nation.
The event begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m. and an optional whiskey tasting led by Highland Brewing’s Oscar Wong at 5:45 p.m. The whiskey tasting will coincide with a seminar examining Burns’ poetry and songs led by Doug and Darcy Orr in the Vanderbilt Room. At 6:45 p.m., bagpiper EL Jones will lead a procession in the ballroom, followed by the presentation of the haggis, the Selkirk Grace, and a welcome program featuring Fiona Richie of NPR’s “Shamrock and Thistle” radio program.
During the three-course dinner, performances will include fiddle music by Pete Clark of Dunkeld and Andrew Finn Magill, a jig and reel by dancers from the local Carpenter Academy of Irish Dance, and the reading of some of the bard’s poems. There will also be art on display made by Scottish children with individual pieces for sale and an auction raising funds for charitable projects in Scotland.
The DoubleTree Hotel Asheville is located at 115 Hendersonville Road, Asheville. Find more information and purchase tickets at AshevilleSisterCities.org/burns.