50 Years of Celebrating Scots in Alma, MI

May 25, 2017

It’s a weekend for haggis and kilts in Alma, Michigan as the 50th annual Alma Highland Festival gets underway, but as WKAR’s Jamie Paisley learned, even this year’s festival president doesn’t care for that infamous Scottish delicacy of meat encased in a sheep’s stomach.

"I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a lover of what you would call ‘haggis,' although I probably should be at least once a year." says Wes Wilkes, president of the Alma Highland Festival Games this year, "Our 50th! We are celebrating this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, all things Scottish right here in Alma, Michigan."

And since this is the 50th anniversary of these Highland games, is there anything special that Wes and company have planned? "You know we're doing our best to bring in new entertainment, bring back some old entertainment, one significant piece that I'm sure we'll hit on a couple of times, but we've reduced our cost in half from $15 to $7. We've put everything inside the festival gates. There've been years where some things have been outside the festival gates, but this year we're able to shove everything back in for $7 and just a great value for the weekend."

And those gates housing the Alma Highland Festival and Games are the gates of Alma College. The entirety of this Scottish weekend occurs on the campus.

"You know, Alma College has been a good partner for us for many, many years. They help provide services through their employees for the weekend, both making sure that the grounds stay looking good but also throughout the year, we meet on the campus as we plan and prepare."

That unmistakable sound of bagpipes comes from Alma College’s very own Pipe Band, and a little bit of their performance from last year’s Alma Highland Festival. They will be back performing during this weekend’s 50th Highland Festival as part of the Friday night Cèilidh, "Which is the traditional kind of entertainment on Friday night." says Wilkes. "The Alma College pipe band along with the Great Lakes pipe band will be performing there so a good partnership with Alma College and we expect that to continue."

As Wes Wilkes, president of this 50th Alma Highlands Festival explains there are competitions galore. "Yeah! All weekend from dancing to the pipe & drumming, and even athletics, it's a weekend of competition. Particularly for dancing, this is one of the qualifiers for national, so excited to be a part of that. It's really is a neat experience to watch these folks compete and give their very best."

While tartans, those plaid fabrics which indicate what Scottish clan you either belong to, or pledge allegiance to, which, by the way, a helpful hint, anyone at all is allowed to wear the Clan Stewart tartan without making a faux pas, but Wilkes has already been wearing one famous garment ahead of this weekend’s Alma Highland Fest and Games.

I never dreamed that would happen, but we declared every Friday in May 'Casual Kilt Friday'

"I, over the years, picked up three kilts myself," says Wilkes."and I never dreamed that would happen, but we declared every Friday in May 'Casual Kilt Friday' this year in honor of the 50th. Yes, the kilt comes out for most of us who serve on the board, and of course many, many others as well, but something that we take great pride in here in Alma, Michigan and blessed to be a part of it, especially 50 years later."

The 50th Alma Highland Festival and Games weekend takes place Saturday-Sunday, with daily passes of $7 while kids 5 and under are free, plus a few a la carte events Friday evening for festival goers brave of heart. You can find a link to the Alma Highland Festival online almahighlandfestival.com