Burns Night honoring Scots poet returns to Maplewood

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Club is being transported to Scotland for one night only on Saturday, Feb. 3, to celebrate Burns Night, an international event that honors Scottish poet Robert Burns. All the proceeds from this fundraiser will benefit the Achieve Foundation of Maplewood and South Orange, a nonprofit organization that raises money for the South Orange-Maplewood School District. The fundraiser was last held in 2016 by the MacWhannell family of Maplewood, and is back to share the food, poetry and music of Scotland.

“We wanted to do something different,” Piers MacWhannell said in a Jan. 25 phone interview with the News-Record. “Jan. 25 is Robert Burns’ actual birthday, so it’s timely. There’s dinner and dancing and we’ll read poetry. There will be lots of kilts and bagpipes.”

Burns is considered the national poet of Scotland and is most widely known for writing the poem “Auld Lang Syne,” which was set to music and is now what most people sing on New Year’s Eve. Burns is also regarded as a pioneer of Romantic poetry, and a “Burns supper” is a Scottish tradition that honors his life.

According to MacWhannell, the second Burns Night fundraiser will be a cocktail reception instead of the traditional dinner, and will feature a whisky tasting for anyone interested in the Scottish liquor. Guests will also be able to learn the “kaylee,” a traditional Scottish line dance that MacWhannell described as “Scottish square dancing.”

“There are toasts that kick off the dinner, and then the bagpipes will start and you learn the dance,” he said. “It starts with the men and there’s a response from the ladies. It’s supposed to be kind of amusing. Kilts and plaid is encouraged, it’s quite colorful.”

MacWhannell and his wife, Adrienne, have three children at Tuscan Elementary School, and wanted the money to go to a cause that would benefit those living in the area. The family has worked with the foundation in the past and wanted to assist with fundraising.

“It worked out extremely well last time,” Achieve Executive Director Deborah Prinz told the News-Record in a Jan. 25 phone interview. “They wanted it to go to a good cause, it was lovely.”

The money raised at the 2016 Burns Night went into the funds for the teacher grants that Achieve distributes every year, as well as the tutoring program that serves between 200 and 350 students after school each year. The funds raised this year will again go to those programs.

Achieve has its own big event coming up Saturday, March 3: the Night of 100 Dinners. South Orange and Maplewood residents host parties in their homes on the same night, and guests make a donation to the foundation as an “entrance fee.” According to Prinz, the organization took in $80,000 from the event last year.

“I really admire the work that they’ve put into this,” Prinz said about the MacWhannells’ Burns Night. “It’s a wonderful and unusual idea, different than any other party I’ve been to. We’re lucky to have people like them in the community that support us.”

Burns Night will be held at the Maplewood “Little” Club on Saturday, Feb. 3, from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at burnsnightmaplewood.eventbrite.com. For more information, send an email to maplewoodburnsnight@gmail.com or call 201-539-0331.

Photos Courtesy of Adrienne MacWhannell

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