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Kent welcomes a taste of the Highlands

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KENT—The Highlands of Scotland recently visited the Housatonic Highlands when the Chamber of Commerce and 45 on Main Coffee, Chocolate and Creamery joined forces to present a Robert Burns Supper.

The evening was the inspiration of Gary Kidd, co-proprietor of 45 on Main. A native of Glasgow, Scotland, he brought his country’s mid-winter fete to these shores, inspiring residents of Northwest Connecticut to dig kilts out of closets and to flood into the Kent Community House for an evening of “haggis, neeps and tatties,” a tasting of fine Scottish liquors, and round and after round of energetic dancing. 

“We were cleared for 130 people in this room, and we sold 160 tickets,” said an exultant Kidd as his guests began to pour in even before the official 7 p.m. start to the evening. “In the last couple of days, I must have had another 100 calls from people wanting tickets, but we were sold out.”

Robert Mellis, who read Robert Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” during the Robert Burns Scottish Night Jan. 27 at the Kent Community House, cuts into a haggis flown in from Scotland for the event. Photo by Kathryn Boughton.

The evening was part of the Chamber of Commerce’s CommUNITY effort, which is designed to lure people away from their televisions and devices to enjoy the company of their neighbors. Denizens of the town mingled readily in a buzz of conversation as the room filled. 

Kidd, dressed nattily in his own kilt and Argyll jacket, and Chamber Vice President Ellen Corsell, greeted their guests from the front of the hall. Corsell slowly and carefully enunciated everything that Kidd said, explaining that she was there to translate his pronounced Glaswegian accent.

And then, suddenly, it was time for the main event. A haggis, the national dish of Scotland consisting of a boiled sheep’s stomach stuffed with chopped meat, onion, oatmeal, spices and suet, was ceremoniously piped into the room by bagpiper Jesse Ofgang, followed by a tartan-clad Robert Mellis.

Mellis, himself a Scot, was dressed in the kilt that had belong to his grandfather during World War I. He read Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” before plunging a large knife into the dish to reveal its creamy center.

Bagpiper Jesse Ofgang provided the musical backdrop for the Robert Burns Supper Jan. 27. Photo by Kathryn Boughton

Following the dinner, guests were summoned to the floor to take part in three vigorous ceilidh dances, with Kidd acting as instructor. “Forward one, two, three; back one, two, three—and dancey, dancey, dancey,” he called out. 

At first, as the music of the pipes and bodhrán picked up speed, the dancers looked like they were playing bumper cars, but soon all smoothed out and couples progressed gracefully around the floor in a large circle.

Dancing was followed by spirited readings of Burns’ poetry before people began to find their way out into the cold winter evening.

Kidd said this week that the event proved so popular that there is a clamor for a St. Patrick’s Day event.

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