For over 250 years, Robbie Burns Night has been celebrated in honour of the life and poetry of the famed Scotsman.
Here in Cochrane, the 21st edition of the celebration is being staged by the Cochrane Pipe Band on Jan. 28 at the Cochrane RanceHouse.
"We honour his birthday every year with poetry and whisky and bagpipes and all things Scottish to keep the tradition alive," says Pipe Major JP Searle. "I would label it Cochrane's premier event, but I may be a little one-sided in saying that."
It features a fine roast beef dinner, music, and plenty more.
"Our organizer Leslie Deans has really pulled out all the stops to make this the best Robbie Burns Night yet," says Searle, "and our pipe band has been working extremely hard at learning new music and maybe dusting off a few of the old classic tunes."
"We do a little poetry, we do the Address to the Haggis, the traditional and very theatrical stabbing of the Haggis on a silver platter, and there are many drinks to be had with some dancing and it's just a good night out."
It was Robbie Burns who penned "Address to a Haggis" to express appreciation for what is Scotland's national dish.
A traditional haggis recipe is described to be "sheep's 'pluck' minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and boiled."
Only a limited number of tickets remain. They are $100 apiece and are available by contacting Leslie at 403-850-0128.
This evening is an important major fundraiser for the band.
"That money's used for instructional purposes, equipment, travel, anything that assists the band and gives everybody a good night out," he explains.
The Cochrane Pipe Band was founded in 1999, and its members wear the ancient Cochrane tartan.
"Some people may not know that we have a pipe band, but we intend to make a lot of noise on Robbie Burns Night this year and for many years to come. If you're out and about in the summertime, I'm sure you'll hear the pipe band playing downtown by the Women of Vision as well as the Cochrane RancheHouse on Saturday mornings."
The pipe major is the musical director of the band who oversees the music selection and makes sure everybody's up to par with the music.
Searle says he did it for six years before taking a year off to travel and is honoured to have recently returned to the role, especially for such a great community.
The pipe band's season is divided into two. In the summer they appear in eight to 10 parades across southern Alberta and sometimes beyond. In the fall, their focus turns to Robbie Burns Night.
The band is also for hire and performs on special occasions.
"Sometimes we'll crash a wedding, anniversary, or things like that. The impromptu events are usually the most fun, with the exception of Robbie Burns Night."
He says they did face a bit of a setback during the peak of COVID but its membership is now returning to normal. More people, though, are always welcome to join the band or assist in a supporting role.
If you're the kind of person who is looking at getting into piping and drumming, we're your first stop. We have a lot of resources and can definitely point people in the right direction to get them going."
You can connect with the band by visiting here.