Saline Celtic Festival’s Highland Dance Competition celebrates 10th anniversary

 06/09/2018 - 15:39
The SCF Highland Dance competition attracts about 100 contestants each year.

The Saline Celtic Festival's Highland Dance Competition, organized by Cindy Kopenski, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.  A premier event offering trophies and cash prizes as well as full access to the Saline Celtic Festival, the competition will run 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, July 14, at Mill Pond Park, 565 W. Bennett, Saline. 

“My family did a great deal of traveling and I loved the music, people and the dancing,” says Kopenski, a Highland Dance competitor from the age of 10 to 21, a teacher for 26 years and a judge since 2003. “I love working with children and families to help them dance for competition, for their heritage or their love of dance—it’s become more than a hobby. My husband is wonderful. I’m very lucky.”

Teachers and judges must take certification exams and obtain annual continuous professional development hours notes Kopenski, who is teaching with Plymouth YMCA day camps this summer.

She got involved with the Saline Celtic Festival when she taught a student whose father was a Highland athlete/competitor at the festival. He invited Kopenski to a General Chair Planning meeting, where the SCF Committee agreed to providing her with a budget and necessary commitment.

“The first year we had roughly 50 dancers,” she says. “Each year the number has grown. The largest number of dancers has been 110. Last year we had 92. We’ve had about 1,000 dancers taking part over the 10 years.”

“Providing a competition venue that is organized, and fun is like icing on the cake,” she adds. “I love working as part of a team, and seeing an event be successful. Over the 10-year development of Highland Dance, the Festival Committee members and myself have become a great team, and good friends. Making new friends, and developing friendships is a big part of the draw of people to this art form.”   

The competition draws dancers from the surrounding areas and also is a destination for dancers from Florida, Kansas, Ohio, Illinois and Ontario.

This year Kopenski will teach along with three volunteers from Dance Steps Studio in Saline, who will be showcased at the dance tent during the Awards event on Saturday morning.

This year will also see the addition of a second stage to accommodate the dancers, a second judge, and a second bagpiper, to allow the pipers to have adequate rest.

The dances to be performed are regulated by the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. “Each competitor level has certain dances that are allowed,” Kopenski explains. “The levels are Primary for dancers under 7 years, Beginner, Novice, Intermediate and Premier.

The Primary Category performs 16 Pas de Bas, Pas de Bas and Hicuts, 4-Step Highland Fling and a 2+1 Sword Dance. The Beginner, Novice and Intermediate group will perform the Scottish Lilt, Highland Fling, Sword Dance and Seann Truibhas. The Premier Group will perform the Scotch Measure, Flora MacDonald, Highland Fling and Seann Truibhas.

Each dancer is given a score based on 100 points: 80 for technique, 10 for timing, and 10 for deportment, with standardized deductions issued based on these categories.

For more information, visit or email Cindy Kopenski at

More about the Saline Celtic Festival:

Gates at Mill Pond Park will open at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 14, with opening ceremonies and a massed band performance at 11 a.m. Festivities run until 11:30 p.m.

Saturday’s headliners include Corktown Popes, CrossBow, Steel City Rovers, Brother Crowe, Finvarra’s Wren, Peat in the Creel, Roane, and Saline Fiddlers, with many more Celtic performers. Activities include: jousting, historical reenactments, Millie the Mill Pond Monster, Wee Folks Island, “The Kilted Magician,” sheep herding, Highland Athletics, pipe bands, textile arts, merchant village, and a Craft Beer Festival

Tickets at the gate are $15/adults; $10/ages 65 and up; $5/ages 13-17; free/ages 12 and under, and active military. Advance tickets at are $10/ adults; group of 10/$80. Pre-event tickets are available for $10 at Saline City Hall the week of the festival.

CrossBow and Brother Crowe will perform Friday, July 13 at Pub Night in Mill Pond Park that also features Ring of Steel; Limerick Contest; Mr. Pretty Legs competition; and workshops. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., and the fun runs to 11:30 p.m. Admission is $5.

Parking is at Heritage and Woodland Meadows schools on Woodland Drive; free shuttle buses will run Friday evening and Saturday.  No pets are allowed on the festival grounds.

For complete information visit

Sheila Pursglove's picture
Sheila Pursglove
Sheila Pursglove is a long-time Saline-area resident, and a freelance writer for several publications in Michigan, around the U.S. and abroad.