In only 2 short days, we will be having our annual Robbie Burns celebration. This event is your typical celebration of Scotland's greatest poet and Scotland's son - we include haggis sampling, bagpipes, dancers, singers, odes, and toasts and more! We also add Scotch sampling at our event where people can try 5 or 6 different whiskies and talk to Kyle Baines from Andrew Hilton Wine and Spirits, and learn about the different varieties. Kyle is the local expert on Scotch, and has travelled to Scotland to see the many different places that the Scotches come from and to meet the makers. He can explain to anyone - from the person who has never tasted a whiskey to those who are passionate about their Scotches - what it is that makes each product unique.
This year, when starting the planning of the event, I was informed that my partner in the planning, Stewart Christie, was quite ill with leukemia and so would not be able to participate this year. I was very saddened by this news as Stewart was instrumental in starting up many of the Robbie Burns events in Southern Alberta and has MCed, played accordian, led the sing-a-long, and more from the USA border to Calgary, from the BC border to the Saskatchewan border. His love of his culture and in particular, of Robbie Burns, was catching. You couldn't know Stewart and not learn something new that made you appreciate this gentleman that the world celebrates the birth of on January 25th each year. For a few years, we weren't sure if Stewart would make the event because of illness, but he had always been there MCing and singing away!
The committee decided that we would honour Stewart this year, for all of his work and his contributions for over a decade (and probably many decades that I am just not aware of). The Galt's marketing staff, Anine Vonkeman, found a wonderful photo of Stewart and put it on the poster. Stewart and his wife had a chance to preview the poster and Stewart was "very pleased", I was told. We had plans to share fun stories of Stewart at Robbie Burns' celebrations at our event, to show the audience how much of an impact this gentleman has had. Some photos of Stewart at past events were pulled out and we made a short slideshow of him MCing the Galt event in the museum before the expansion, at the mall where we had the event while we were closed for renovations, and then finally in our new event space. We were excited to honour this wonderful man while for the first time, he'd be able to sit in the front row and just watch and enjoy the activity.
Sadly, early in January, I received a number of phone calls asking me if I had seen the obituaries - Stewart passed away on January 1st. The committee was devastated, as was I. But we knew that more than anything, Stewart would want us to celebrate Robbie Burns in a BIG way, as BIG as we could, and keep celebrating. We will pay tribute to Stewart that night and I do think there will be a lot of tears in the audience as we listen to a special song on the bagpipes that is being played just for him. As well, the choir he conducted will perform his favourite song.
In fact, since he has passed, I have received so many phone calls from people, like his choir members, asking if they could pay tribute to him by participating in our program on Friday night. I cannot say no because he would have wanted this - he always wanted the event to be even bigger than it was. So, I have agreed and our program has become longer in a way that would have made Stewart so proud - we have so many new performances and activities this year and we have even had a local artist do his family crest, which is now framed, for display that evening.
This Friday night, I hope you can join us as we celebrate Scotch and we celebrate Robbie Burns, but moreso, as we pay tribute to a man who has touched so so many people in this area, Mr Stewart Christie. Bring a few tissues but more than that, be prepared to smile, laugh and celebrate with us - it is how he would have wanted it!
A toast.....to Stewart!
(Tickets are $3/person or $1/person for annual passholders. Children 6 and under are free. Tickets are on sale prior to the event at the museum store, and any available tickets will be at the door. Scotch tasting tickets will be sold at the event only)