The birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns has been celebrated in the Mapleton area for over 150 years. The celebration began in the winter of 1857 at or near Old Mapleton, the community founded by Scottish immigrants. A few Scottish settlers met at the Robert Taylor farm to honor Burns and do a bit of curling, one of the national Scottish sports, on the Maple River. Mapleton boasts the longest curling heritage in Minnesota. Curling became so popular in Mapleton that by 1866 it was decided some organization had to be done. Thus was born the Blue Earth Valley Burn Club, with a bonspiel held in conjunction with the Robert Burns Night on the river or lake closest to that year’s home of the celebration.
During the early years, after the game, curlers and spectators adjourned to the local farmhouse for supper—including the traditional and unique dish, haggis. A program followed in which there were 19 songs, two recitations and some speeches. A dance ended the evening. By 1888 it was decided to open membership in the Burns club to all admirers of the poet, regardless of nationality. This vastly expanded the interest and attendance and Burns Night became a community-wide celebration. World War I caused the celebration to be suspended and due to a lack of a place sufficiently large to accommodate the crowd, programs were not held again until 1935, when a new school building was finished. It was in 1935 that the CampMor Kilties dancers first performed at the Burns Night celebration, accompanied by the local Scottish band of bagpipers and drummers. In modern times the celebration has been held on the weekend closest to Robert Burns’ birthday, January 25th. Integral to the program are still Scottish dances, e.g., the traditional sword dance, and the crowning of the new Miss Bonnie Lassie.
Alas, the CampMor Kilties band no longer exists; however, a fine Iowa-based pipe band is employed in recent years.
By Win Grundmeier (Written 2012)
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