For as long as I can remember, I looked forward to the time when my hometown of Alma, Michigan came alive to the sound of bagpipes. As a child, it wasn’t uncommon to hear a piper practicing off in the distance while playing at the many parks in town. Bagpipes in the background, always had us looking forward to the annual Highland Festival and Games each Memorial Day Weekend!
Fortunately, some of my best friends are Scots, graduates of Alma College and two of my classmates were Highland dancers. Fifth grade with them in my class, felt like a front row seat to the festival! The two Highland dancers often performed for talent shows, special school events and many other occasions. It wasn’t until I moved away, lived abroad and traveled the world, that I truly realized how fortunate and unique my experience growing up in Alma was.
What’s even cooler and way more impressive, is that one of the Highland Dancers from my class, Kate DeGood, went on to become a 2-time World First Runner-up, 2-time World 2nd Runner-up, and 11-time World Finalist with over 100 major championship titles throughout the United States, Canada, Scotland, and Australia, and she’s also, a 7–time US Champion.” Currently, Kate directs a school of Scottish Highland Dance in Troy, Michigan and helps in providing Highland Dance opportunities for students at Alma College.
Highland Festivities have been around since the 60’s, creating champions and drawing crowds from all corners of the world – to ALMA!
It’s all rooted in Alma College’s Presbyterian history and one creative fella who came up with a catchy slogan, the Scots. Since the Presbyterian Church started in Scotland, the name stuck. It was a good fit, as here we are today, reveling in tradition – celebrating and telling the Scottish story.
Alma College registered its very own tartan in 1999. The Alma Tartan is unique and exclusive to Alma College and is a key element in the college’s identity.
As the hometown to one of the premier academic institutions in the Midwest, we are proud of our Scots! Where else might you catch sight of a caber toss? You will never unsee this experience!
Alma Highland Festival and Games
Held each year on the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend is the Alma Highland Festival and Games. Thousands of visitors flock to Alma, Michigan for a weekend chocked full of Scottish music, food, entertainment, athletics, vendors, clans, and more!
See the very best of Scottish hospitality, tradition and find out about your heritage by visiting any of the several Clan Tents.
Watch World Class performers compete in Scottish traditional Highland dancing, piping, drumming, and heavyweight athletics.
In the evening, swing by the Entertainment Tent for professional entertainment and cold beer! Live Scottish bands – imagine something like Dropkick Murphy style, rocking out on stage in kilts, while you bang your head to some bagpipes and break it down on the dance floor. Sounds like I might’ve done that a time or two… One year it was actually my birthday and the band played Happy Birthday on bagpipes for me!
If you’re up for it in the morning, why not partake in a series of races right down the middle of town – a 5K or 10 K lap, 5K Walk or Kids Fun Run of Scotland USA. On Saturday morning, before the 10:30 am beloved Street Parade rolls through town.
In spirit of the cancelled Highland Festival, Alma held an improvised event downtown in 2021, Highland Experience which included dancers, bagpiping, caber toss and Nessie rides. A unique experience, my family will never forget!
Céad Míle Fáilte from Alma – Scotland USA!
If you’re looking for family friendly fun, Frankenmuth, Michigan is the perfect getaway! It is one of my favorite local go-to vacation spots, for years we’ve been celebrating family birthdays at Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth with delicious family style chicken dinner.
A great Indian tribe has established an amazing operation in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe started car bingo many moons ago and it has transformed into a world class entertainment venue, casino, waterpark, spa, campground and so much more. Mt. Pleasant is a premier travel destination in Mid-Michigan, you should come check it out!
Learn about my visit at Ziibiwing Center. Part of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Mt. Pleasant. As a Culture Center, designed and dedicated to the Anishinabe people, a celebration of history, tradition and beliefs.