Kids Square Dance to Help Others With Cancer

May 25, 2012

It’s nice to see school kids get involved with square dancing, especially when they are doing so to help raise money for other kids who have cancer.  To read about this event, click on the link below.

The End Of An Era – (1)

May 2, 2012

This year, the traditional Speewa Easter Hoedown evoked mixed emotions.  The more than 120 dancers who attended were happy to be there, but sad that this was the very last hoedown to be held at the Barn.  This was the 45th year that Des Devereux organized the event, in recent years ably assisted by Bruce & Cathy Rushton, their family, friends and Peter Humphries from Matamoras Squares.


As per last year I have split this account up into sections so that your computer can handle the big file sizes generated by the photos I have posted.

All you doubting Thomas’s who decided to miss this year and come next year, you have missed out.  This really was the last Speewa Easter Hoedown.  Des’s heath is not as good as it used to be and he has just had a pacemaker fitted.  Even though it’s difficult to slow him down, I think he now recognizes that the effort necessary to prepare for the event is slipping beyond his reach; his property is now up for sale.

This year Des wanted to end on a high note, “go out with a bang” and a few of us agreed to arrive early to ensure he achieved this aim.  I arrived 10 days early accompanied by Heather, Tony and my wife Helen; we travelled up from Wild Frontier’s weekend away at Berri in SA ( see:  Bob and Margaret from Burrill Lake, NSW arrived one day later.  Our job was to help Des clean up the place in preparation for the “marauding hordes” about to descend on Des, intent on “rape and pillage” (in reality all pillage no rape).  We were the volunteer cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew.

We found the property looking really great, a lot bigger than previous years because the old homestead had been removed and replace by green mowed grass which abounded over the whole camp site.  We assisted by relocating truckloads of Des’s treasures which still lay about the place thus creating even more space.  We also got the hot water and drainage systems working, cleaned the ablution block, the kitchen, dining room and dance floor, washed all the dishes, cleaned the kitchen equipment and went shopping with Des.  The place was all spick and span and looked the best ever when the first caravans arrived on the Tuesday before Easter.

We also helped Des prepare cook and serve the traditional meal held on Thursday night to raise money for Des’s charity Beyond Blue.  Historically, Des and Fay have done a lot of work for many charities helping to raise many children from broken homes and others less fortunate than they.  We also cooked all the breakfasts – ye gods so many sausages bacon rashers, and eggs to cook (not to forget the resulting dirty dishes and kitchen clean up).  After the show was over, we all agreed that it was very satisfying to help take the load off Des’s shoulders.

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The Barn In Its Rural Setting

For those of you who don’t know “The Barn”, above is a snapshot .  The picture shows the Barn set on Des’s rural property at Speewa, 15 kilometres North of Swan Hill, Victoria.  This is a lovely area with flat land farm crisscrossed by many irrigation channels (the vast majority now unused) fed from the nearby Murray River.  I have included a plan below showing the layout of the barn which contains a dance floor, commercial kitchen and a dining room.

Floor Plan

Glass Doors Open Into The Dining Room,
The Small White Door Opens Onto The Dance Floor

The following video is of the facility in full swing on the first night, entering from the small external white door adjacent to “THE BARN” sign,  which is near the stage (see above photo).  The video then takes you through the dance floor up into the dining area then back onto the dance floor finally returning to the dining room where many dancers relax for a chat and a cuppa.  Click on the white door in the picture above to view the video.


Day 1 Tuesday 27th March

After leaving Berri at 9.00 AM (SA time), Heather, Tony, Helen and Roger arrived at The Barn at about 4.00 PM (VIC time).  They found one of Des’s fence rails was on fire and were not sure if he was intentionally burning it.  No one was about so they started to locate their two caravans when Des arrived home.  After they had parked up, Des joined them and they helped isolate the fire then all had a cuppa and a chat.  They then continued to set up camp, whilst Des pottered around cleaning up the place on his Furgie tractor.

Day 2 Wednesday 28th March

Whilst taking the dogs for a walk down to the ferry / bonfire area it was apparent that the river was flowing very fast; and was very high, but not yet flooding the bonfire area.

Today, Heather and Helen attacked the huge ant nests outside the ablution block, there would have been literally more than 1000 inch ants swarming all over the place, it was not possible to walk to the outside sinks through such a swarm.  They then started to clean the toilet block finishing the disabled and ladies toilets.  Tony and Roger managed to get the two water heaters working thus providing hot rain water to the showers and hand basins.  They also found that the door to the disabled toilet and shower would only partially open because the concrete footpath had pushed up.  So they removed the door and used a hand saw to cut 10 mm off the bottom edge of the door which when refitted opened and closed properly.

They also removed a dud refrigerator from the kitchen and dug out a dirty old refrigerator stored in Des’s bus port, which they then dragged into the kitchen (after checking it still worked).  Unfortunately there was no water supply to the toilets so they had to use buckets for flushing purposes.  They also found some very large wasp nests in and near the ablution block, Des sprayed some stuff but the wasps regrouped in three other places after some frantic flying too and fro angrily searching for someone to sting

Day 3 Thursday 29th March

Heather and Tony finished cleaning the ablutions including some miscellaneous repair jobs.  Roger spent about 4 hours cleaning the dirty fridge which was then put in its final location in the kitchen and switched on to cool down. Helen cleaned the outside sinks and drainers, then moved into the kitchen and started to do some work there.  The gas man delivered new cylinders and the plumber came and cleared all the clogged drains from the showers and toilets and also serviced the water heater to the kitchen.  Just before they stopped for the day, Bob and Margaret arrived so they all sat down and had a cupper and were joined by Des and his mate Henry.  After dark, Roger donned his overalls, and with hat, mosquito net and gloves went out to de wasp the ablution block with a large can of insect killer.  The place was shaping up for a great Easter Hoedown

Friday 30th March

Roger Tony and Bob did further work cleaning up the park, moving rubbish out of the way, dismantling a collapsing fence clearing away long grass etc  Tony did some further work cleaning out the kitchen.  Heather Margaret and Helen also concentrated on the kitchen, cleaning benches drawers and the walk in refrigerator and commenced washing up loads of crockery. Des filled his dam and switched over to dam water for toilet flushing and lawn sprinklers to keep the grass nice and green.  Roger drove into Swan Hill to buy some more stuff like curtain hooks to hang some new curtains in the kitchen that the ladies planned to make.  That evening they had a banquet in the dining room, just the six of them plus 4 dogs, later Des joined them after returning from a working bee and dinner down at the hall by the punt.

         Des & Bob Return After Fixing A Spilling Dam

Saturday 31st March

Whilst taking the dogs for a walk down to the ferry / bonfire area it was apparent that the river had dropped a couple of inches, but was still flowing fast.

Roger and Tony found a freezer in the pantry adjacent to the kitchen, most useful for storing all the frozen foods Des was going to purchase.  When they switched it on, it briefly ran then stopped so they decided a replacement freezer was the only option, and resurrected an older deep freezer Des had in his shed.  After wiring up a new plug and checking it still operated Roger cleaned the years of dirt out of the inside and off the outside.

Meanwhile the ladies continued work in the kitchen, including the manufacture of new curtains.  The sewing was made a lot easier using a sewing machine Tony found in one of the storage rooms in the barn, which he got working with some TLC (and CRC)

The resurrected freezer was placed in the kitchen but would not start.  After some checking, the power point was found to be dead.  So an extension lead was put to use.

Whilst the ladies continued to work on the kitchen, the men relocated a couple of Des’s on site caravans.  They then found that quite a few power points were dead in the dining room, even though they had been working (prior to testing the freezer in the pantry).  The main switchboard was OK and it was only when looking for another power point to check out which ones were dead that they found another sub board, and guess what one circuit had tripped out on overload, after it was reset, the resurrected freezer was plugged into an appropriate socket and the extension lead removed.

Yes We Did Stop For Tea Breaks 

More wasp nests were discovered, a job for after dark and more rubbish was cleared away along the fences where the caravans had been removed.  The ladies hung the new curtains and the place looked great.

Des as usual (he will not listen) overdid things so, after lunch, he retired to bed stuffed, with a couple of Panadol, his lady friend Grace popped in with some tea towels table cloths etc.

Sunday 1st April

The cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew did a lot more tidying up around the park and along the fences, relocating the junk to the back of the property.  Des’s quad bike and a trailer came in very handy to move some of the stuff; it should have been used earlier.  They also cleaned up a lot of weeds etc – the place looked great.  The ladies continued on, cleaning the kitchen cool room, and bar areas.


 The Ladies Were Determined That No One Would Find A Fly In Their Soup

For continuation of this story and a lot more square dance photos click on the link below which will take you to Section 2


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The End Of An Era – (2)

May 2, 2012

Section 2

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Monday 2nd April

3 caravans pulled in today, so garbage and recycle bins were distributed throughout the park.

Bob and Roger found water bubbling up from underground near the rear door to the kitchen, they dug down to find a broken plastic pipe.  Des had to turn the dam fed water off, which meant there was no water to flush the toilets.  Tony cleaned the three ovens in the kitchen.  The ladies continued cleaning – whew what a lot of crockery pots, pans and eating utensils.  Bob went into town to get some bits to fix the pipe but got back late in the afternoon so it was decided to do the job on Tuesday.  The men also helped with the installation of a sump-pump to pump water out to the fields from a holding tank which collected water from the showers and the kitchen (it overflowed last year).

Tuesday 3rd April

One more van pulled in today.

After a lot of thought it was decided to fix the pipe a different way, BUT that required a couple of extra fittings so Bob shot off into town.  There was a loud bang as he left the property.  On his return we found that he had wiped the side of his Territory against one of Des’s lamp posts.

The men fixed the leaking pipe, then we looked at the ladies shower which was not draining properly – a simple fix, the shower drain grate was blocked.  Great, they got the water back on and all showers draining well.  Then Tony helped Bob dismantled his Territory door, because the electric window was jammed.  After some work with a hammer they pushed the door out so that the window worked properly.  Des was informed that the fittings to fix the leaking pipe were free but the delivery charges would be around $5000.00 (the estimated cost to fix Bobs vehicle).


Today Was Des's 81st Birthday.  Note How Delicately He Cut His Cake

Roger then cleaned the griller and griddle plate (3 hours) while Tony set up the tables and chairs in the dining room.  At the same time, the ladies went into town with Des to pick up a lot of groceries for the meals, on their return they packed all the stuff away and everyone had a cup of coffee and some birthday cake.  The event was getting closer but everyone was confident everything would be ready in time.

Wednesday 4th April

Bob backfilled the hole and dismantled an electric meat slicer he got going to make things a bit easier for Saturdays meal (hundreds of slices cut by hand would be a daunting task). Roger did a final clean and mop of the kitchen floor.  The ladies peeled and cut a bucket load of apples and made 5 apple crumbles for Thursday’s meal.

After lunch everyone helped in the kitchen preparing meat and vegetables for the forthcoming meals (loads of washing up, heaps of vegetables to prepare, and mounds of sausages to cook for curried sausages).

Thursday 5th April

Another two vans pulled in today plus Brian (from Mannum) and Jill dropped in, later Ross and Mark from Victor Harbor SA popped in to say hello.

After some tidying up in the kitchen and a trip to Swan Hill in the morning, everyone gathered in the kitchen at 4.00 PM and started to prepare the evening meal and also prepare some stuff for Saturday’s breakfast and sort out some utensils for Friday’s meal.

The evening meal was ready at 6.30 PM, soup, curried sausages, potato bake and brazed meat in onion gravy.  It was a help yourself affair and the potato bake quickly disappeared.  The ladies then served up apple crumble and cream which they had prepared earlier in the day.  Then the dirty dishes and utensils appeared, but they coped well and had the whole place cleaned up by about 7.30 PM.

The meal raised funds for Des’s charity Beyond Blue.  Heather took a knackered Des home and put him to bed (nice to have an ex nurse on the team), then we all retired to our caravans for a rest

Friday 6th April

This was the 1st dance day on the weekend programme.  Many more caravans and motor homes arrived today and set up camp.  In the morning, spuds were peeled for mashed potato, trays lined for baked fish, and emergency repair work on one of the gas ovens was carried out and the floor was cleaned and mopped.  Later in the afternoon, potatoes were mashed the fish popped into the ovens and the veggies put on to cook.  Cathy (Bruce’s wife) joined the team in the kitchen (she’s a real work horse).

Des's Place Was FULL !

At 6.00 PM, the dining room was buzzing, filled with nearly 100 square dancers resplendent in their regalia.  Dinner was served, including apple strudel slice for dessert.  Then all the dishes were washed up and put away whilst Peter prepared for the evening dance.

At around 7.30, Peter called the 1st tip; the dance floor was full with 10 squares up.  Peter gave all the guest callers a tip – Jaden, Paula, Emily, Ralphie (Baby), Ivan and Silvia.  Everyone enjoyed themselves until 10.30 PM, at which time the dance floor was empty and the dining room was again filled with a noisy bunch, enjoying supper – tea, coffee and hot cross buns.  After helping prepare and serve hot X buns for supper, the kitchen crew cleaned up and went to bed (they had to assemble in the kitchen at 7.15 AM to cook breakfast).  Some dancers remained in the dining room until the wee small hours having a bit of an after party.

1st Night - Dance Floor Full

 Saturday 7th April

The cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew were up early, the campsite was very still.  The first hot breakfast day saw about 40 dancers front up for service, bacon (Roger) eggs (Helen) tomatoes & toast (Heather & Margaret) dishes – a seemingly continuous flow from start up to shut down (Tony & Bob) an endless flow of empty tummies.  Finally the kitchen was cleaned up benches washed down and the, floor mopped.

Today was the cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew’s public holiday, after cutting up corned silverside using the cleaned and resurrected meat slicer, Cathy, Bruce, their family and friends took over preparing spuds vegies and pancake mix. At about this time, Des disappeared with Peter down to the Pioneer Village to load the paddle steamer for the river cruise & dance.

The River Cruise

Reprieved the kitchen crew showered, put on warm clothes and drove to the punt campsite, set up table and chairs had nibbles, wine and a good old chin wag to many of the dancers who did not go on the cruise.


 Cathy & Bruce

 Down By The Riverside

Once the cruise dancers had returned the bonfire was lit, Peter put on some music whilst Des, Bruce Cathy, their family and friends served up dinner and pancakes.  Afterwards there was some group therapy dancing aimed specifically at those “young at heart” (Hokey Pokey, Birdie Dance, Madison, Nut Bush City Limits etc).

The bonfire Was Lit

The Pancake Crew 


The Pancake Queue 


Des Still Had Time For A Hug (One Size Fits All) 


Nutbush & Some High energy Dancing

 Good One You Guys !

Then everyone hit the road back to the Barn for some square dancing fun, which went on until the wee small hours of the morning concluding at around 2.00 AM.  The kitchen crew disappeared and went to bed so they could get up to cook next days breakfast, so there are no photos of the marathon square dance.

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The End Of An Era – (3)

May 2, 2012

Section 3

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Sunday 8th April

This was the last dance day of the Easter Hoedown.  The cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew were up early cooking breakfast sausages (Roger) eggs (Helen) toast (Heather & Margaret) dishes (Tony Bob).  Many dancers, weary from the night before, straggled in later than usual for their breakfasts.  Was this because of too much after dance partying?

Sunday Afternoon Was Workshop Time

Peter ran a square dance workshop in the afternoon, however I only went to the first part when he did some left and right hand scoot back from LH & RH waves and dandy lines and all the variations of mainstream circulate.  He also did some plus stuff but I missed that.

Workshops Do Not Have To Be All Doom And Gloom 

After a chicken and fish dinner prepared by Cathy Bruce family and friends, the dancers gathered in the hall to let their hair down at the last dance (ever).  During the night, there was a minimum of eight squares up, including for a plus bracket.  For much of the night there was 10 squares on the floor with 12 squashed in squares up for the very last tip likely to be called in the Barn.

Sunday Dinner: Poor old Des PLEASE !!!! Followed His Instructions

The Dining Room Was Full


 So Was The Dance Floor

Peter Did A Great Job Calling And Running The Show

Peters Club Made A Great Effort Supporting This Last Dance At The


 During the dance, Jaden, Paula, Emily, Ralphie (Baby) Ivan and Silvia gave a call.  Des, microphone in hand reminisced about previous Speewa Hoedowns and the characters who had attended and helped out.  Alan (VSDA president) thanked Des for his unselfish contribution over the last 45 years to Australias square dance community.  Peter thanked Des and presented him with a giant “Thank You card”, signed by everyone on the floor.

All The Callers Did A Great Job

It was Great To See Emily Call, We Need Some New Young Blood

Des Did Some Reminiscing 

Alan Thanked Des For His Ongoing Contribution To Square Dancing 

Des Was Given A Big Thankyou Card Signed By Everyone Present

Darren and Philip who had driven up just for this final day also called, with Philip winding up the crowd on the dance floor just prior to the last tip in which Peter called “The Last Cowboy” as a final tribute to Des’s Speewa Easter Hoedown.  Des then joined Peter for the very very last call likely to be made in the Barn.  They both sang “Show Me the Way to Go Home”.  This emotional conclusion was followed by supper and we went home to bed (well some did whilst others kicked on).

Philip Wound Up The Crowded Dance Floor 

Des And Peter Gave The Last Call Probably The Last Call Ever To Be Made At The Barn

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The End Of An Era – (4)

May 2, 2012

Section 4

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Sunday ........ I forgot

Bruce & Cathy's kids did a fantastic job helping out arround the campsite.  they also loved using Des's quad bike to do the work with their friends as in the photo below..

The Bin Crew 

There was time on Sunday for "Happy Hour" as there had been on many of the other days Des's campground was occupied.


 Happy Hour - A Speewa (And Many Other Places) Tradition

Monday 9th April

One of the dancers brought along some Speewa commemorative badges which have two sad stories.  The first sad story relates to one of the badges made for a memorial dance held for Des’s wife Fay.  The other sad story is that the maker of the badges died in a road crash whilst he and his family were on their way to Speewa to deliver some of the badges.  His wife requested that the badges be distributed but, understandably, no more were ever made.

Speewa Dance Badges 

The cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew arrived at the kitchen just after 7.00 AM to find Norm cooking his own bacon so he could make an early start on the road before the usual Easter traffic chaos.  A few people dribbled in for breakfast at 8.00 AM then the rush started at about 8.45 resulting in a seemingly endless queue waiting for their bacon eggs and tomatoes.  This has always traditionally been the heaviest day for breakfast, more than 60 were served.  By 9.30 AM it was all over, and the crew ate their own breakfasts and started cleaning up, whilst Des and Cathy cooked up some road kill for the traditional (impromptu?) evening meal.  Everything was cleaned packed away and the floors mopped by 11.15 AM.

Helen & Heather Cooked Breakfast


While Bob And Tony Washed The Dishes / Dishes / More dishes

Margaret Still Smiling After Making So Much Toast

In the morning about half of the happy campers departed.  In the evening most of the reaming campers gathered in the dining room for drinks and road kill.  Everyone went to bed early after a bloody good weekend.

Tuesday 10th April

We slept in until around 9.00 AM to find more info

most of the remaining campers had left.  Paula and hubby then departed followed by Alex, Paul and Bev.  The three vans of the cleaning, maintenance and kitchen crew were all that remained.

The dining room tables and chairs were packed away (except for one table).  We then all then did some final cooking in the Barn’s kitchen and had a communal meal in the dining room, with Des and his four legged companion Minty.  We took one last group photo then cleaned up and were back in our vans and had crashed by 8.30 PM

Des's And His Happy Helpers
Back Row L - R:  Tony, Roger, Helen, Des, Heather, Bob & Margaret 
Front Row L - R:  Pixie, Mitty & Minty

Wednesday 11th April

Today a final clean up of Des’s yard in the morning, emptying and putting away the garbage bins around the campground and in the kitchen.  Clearing away all the firewood that the campers had left unused (they planned a camp fire on Monday night, but no one wanted to leave the warm dining room and go out into the cold).  All the small sticks were placed on top of the garbage bags in an adjacent paddock and the rubbish was burned.

Roger Also Loved The Quad Bike, It Sure Made It Easy To Clean Up 

Tony, Bob and Roger messed around with Des’s tractors trying to improve their ignition timing and fuel mixtures so that they ran better.  Des went to a funeral, and we started to dismantle and pack away our vans ready for our departure

It took hours to dismantle and pack away.  We all then did some cooking in our caravans and had one final last communal meal in the dining room with Des.

Thursday  12th April

Helen and Roger got up just before 6.00 AM (Vic time) and sadly left Des’s place at 7.30 AM arriving at Ouyen for breakfast at 9.00 AM.  Leaving Ouyen at 9.30, they filled up with petrol at Pinnaroo and had reached Tailem Bent for lunch by 12.45 PM (SA Time).  They arrived home about 3.00 PM.  Tony and Heather left Des’s place later in the morning, Bob and Margaret left the following Saturday.

What a fantastic experience, what great people. Though Speewa’s Easter Hoedown will be sadly missed it will surely be fondly remembered for many years to come.  Speewa had the quintessential square dance element which is sadly disappearing worldwide.

Well done to everyone involved – you know who you are.

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