Since they were first formed exactly 50 years ago, the Lake Highlands Highlandettes have been a crucial component of the community. The team has never refused a request to perform at an event, and all their performances are free to the public. And now, the current members and the alumni of the Highlandettes are inviting the Lake Highlands community to come out and celebrate their 50th birthday on Friday, October 7.
The Highlandettes are having a pre-game reunion and BBQ for their alumni, current families and friends prior to the Lake Highlands vs. Sunset Homecoming game. Then, during halftime of the game, the squad will put on a birthday celebration routine that will include candles, trampolines shaped like cupcakes and more.
One of the members that helped plan and set up the reunion party is Robin Christina Finklea. Aside from working in the front office, Finklea is also a former Highlandette, having been on the team from 1980 to 1982. Coming from a family that has been heavily involved with the Highlandettes, she has seen the squad change and evolve over the years.
“It’s definitely more sophisticated, I would have to say,” Finklea said. “Like the costumes…everything is just bigger and better. Our hats were more of a top hat, and our skirts had to be starched with liquid starch so they were stiff. I’m glad that kind of changed.”
However, one thing that has not changed is the amount of effort the Highlandettes put into their craft. Their devotion, dedication and discipline are evident to anyone who has watched them perform. And the officers are expected to do and be even better.
“The officers are obviously the strongest dancers on the team,” said Lauren Turnbull, the director of the Highlandettes. “They’re strong dancers; they get an extra period to work on things. They perform three extra dances. They’re in front and they’re leading the team. And it’s also about leadership and communication.”
But while dancing does occupy a large amount of their time, the Highlandettes still manage to keep up with their schoolwork. It’s an impressive feat, considering that during their show season, the dancers could be practicing at school until 10:00 p.m. on the weekends and 8:30 p.m. on the weekdays. In fact, many of the Highlandettes and especially the officers are in the top 10 of their class.
“As far as academics go, I have to brag,” said Turnbull. “Last year at competition, there was also an award for the highest GPA, which we did get. Our captain [Sarah Blettner] is No. 1 in her class, and we have other officers as well that are top-10 people. A majority of our team is at the very top of their class. On top of all they do here, they’re very, very good students.”
And all of their hard working and dedication to dancing and school is rewarded with their annual spring trip. This year, the Highlandettes will be setting sail over spring break on a Royal Caribbean cruise with stops in St. Croix, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados. Immediate family members and former Highlandettes are also invited to partake in the fun.
The Highlandettes have come a long ways since Gail Williams, the first director of the Highlandettes from 1961 to 1962, led the squad and designed their uniforms. But some thing won’t ever change about the Highlandettes, whether it be in 50 years or 100. They’ll always be dedicated and disciplined; they’ll always be smart and hard working; and they’ll always be a big part of the Lake Highlands community.
“The Highlandettes is a very special, unique organization, and I’m really proud and happy to be a part of it,” Turnbull said. “I feel very lucky to spend everyday with these girls: they’re hard working, they’re disciplined and they’re phenomenal. They deserve all the pluses that they get with the organization because they put in so much work and they’re just really great people on top of that.”
Photos courtesy of the Highlandettes.