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52nd annual Highland Festival to take place May 24-26


Scottish clan members march in the Parade of Titans at the Alma Highland Festival May 26.

Learn how to make Scottish recipes and how to throw an ax in the same day at the Alma Highland Festival this weekend. The 52nd annual Alma Highland Festival will begin at 4 p.m. Friday, May 24 and will end at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 26 at Alma College.

Tickets may be purchased online or at the event for $15 per day. The festival no longer offers 2-day passes. Veterans, senior citizens and first responders get discounted tickets for $12 each. 

Activities will begin Friday, May 24 with a performance from the Alma Jazz Bands at 5:30 p.m. at the Heritage Center Front Lawn, followed by a dance competition at 6 p.m. in the Hogan Center. Classic Rock band Jedi Mind Trip will perform at 8 p.m. in the entertainment tent. Admission is $10 per person.

Saturday morning begins with the 44th annual Road Run. The Kid's Fun Run begins at 8:30 a.m. and the 5K and 10K races start at 9 a.m. in front of the Tyler-Van Dusen Student Center.  Online registration is closed, but onsite registration is open from 4-7 p.m. Friday and 6:30-8 a.m. Saturday.

Most attractions open between 8-9 a.m. Saturday. This includes a Highland dance competition, a piping and drumming competition and professional athletic events.

Festivities include a parade at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the corner of Superior Street and Michigan Avenue before the official kick-off. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. in the Alma College football stadium. It includes a Parade of Tartans and a massed band performance.

Marcel Martinez, the administrative assistant on the festival's board of directors, said the festival will have ax throwing demonstrations, which is new this year. Martinez said the demonstrations will be located by the Border Collie and Highland Cattle Exhibition near the football stadium.

Festival visitors can also learn how to cook Scottish cuisine and enjoy free tastings from Chef Eric McBride. Known as the Celtic Caterer, McBride will hold Scottish cooking demonstrations three times on Saturday and four times on Sunday. 

The entertainment tent will be open all day Saturday and Sunday. A $5 cover charge will be required after 6 p.m. Saturday. There will be performances from a variety of musical groups including:

  • Kalamazoo-based progressive Celtic band The Founding will play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
  • The Chelsea House Orchestra will perform at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
  • Celtic festival favorite CrossBow will perform at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday.
  • New to the Alma Highland Festival is the Nashville Celts, a nationally-recognized group that has played at the Grand Ole Opry and the Lincoln Center. The group will play at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Breakfast will be available from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday in Hamilton Commons. Breakfast is $7 for adults and $4 for children ages 3-12.

Martinez said the festival is still looking for volunteers. Those interested can fill out a sign-up form or email Volunteers earn a free pass to the festival.