August 17, 2008

The 57th Annual National Square Dance Convention was held on June 25,26, and 27 in Wichita, Kansas. The Kansas Square Dancers mounted a bid four years ago to hold the convention this year.

The convention moves around the country, selected four years in advance. We already know that in 2009 we will he in Long Beach, California, then in 2010 Louisville, Kentucky, then in 2011 Detroit,Michigan, and now in 2012 Spokane, Washington. At the convention, each year, several cities mount a "bid" to hold the convention.

In Wichita, two areas were competing for the right to host the convention in 2012: Oklahoma City and Spokane, Washington. They each mounted a spirited bid, but the NEC finally chose Spokane. After all, no National Convention has never been held in Spokane and their committee shows an extraordinary level of enthusiasm and organization. Perhaps Oklahoma will bid next year for the 2013 convention-unless Texas goes after it!

Of course, the National Square Dance Convention is the biggest and (we think) the best square dance each year in the US of A! From 7 to 10 thousand dancers come from every corner of the globe to participate in this vast celebration. Each year dancers come to dance their feet off for three days, and participate in all of the other activities at the omvention.

On Tuesday night we went to a "Pre-convention" dance, presented by the "California Gang" as a fundraiser for a local "boys' ranch' that needed the fimds. Dinner was a delicious barbeque with brisket, pulled pork, sausage, and all the trimmings. After dmner we drove the quarter mile to the ham where the dance was being held. We rolled out of the car and strolled to the dance. Our old friend Ben Goldberg, along with Rod Shuping, Bill Silver, and-Phil Farmer were calling. It was a good evening and each of the callers entertained wondeffidly! Rod really brought down the house with a bawdy version of "My Ding-a-ling."

We drove up to Wichita from Livingston, and took our good friend Ted lym from London along. He arrived a couple of days before we left for Wichita and went home to London on July 3.
We elected to drive rather than fly. Our costs were: 1450 miles, 53.3 gallons, $233.34 fuel cost ($$77.77 per person). We stayed in one hotel in Oklabome City for about $50/night, and one in Wichita at about $45/night. Our average fuel costs were 3.94 per gallon. T'he car turned in 24.25 miles per gallon--quite good for a large, comfortable car such as our Mercury C7rand Marquis. If we had:flown, we would have had to leave the car in the parking lot for the time we were gone and probably rent a car in Wichita for the time we were there. Of course we have to add in two days of travel time each way (we cone home via Tulsa to drop in on an old square dance friend of Ted's.) We were quite, pleased with what we did, and the costs.

Jim and Betsy at the Australian National Convention Adelaide

We have been attending the National Square Dance Convention for about 20 years and fmd that the best thing about it is the people we meet. We spend our time going from one friend to another. We can no longer "dance till we drop" so we have to pick and choose our dancing. That was fairly easy because the halls were fairly close together. We simply high-lighted the callers we wanted to dance with (yes, they give you a directory that includes the name and time and space where every caller is calling) and the events we wanted to attend and went ftom one place to another.

This year we did not spend as much time watching in the exhibition halls and more time in the vendors. We had to replenish our square dance stuff and see a lot of our old friends there. 1 could never name all the people we saw, there, Many of them we only see once a year at the National Convention. We were greeted time and again with warm hugs, and cries of delight as we encountered old friends. Special ones were Adele Bachman, Joe Saltel, Ben Goldberg, Yeta Parker--oh, if 1 could remember the names I could go on and on!

While a lot of the attendees were old dancers like us, there was a goodly number of young people there. There was a "youth" hall that seemed to go most of the time. The youth also danced in the halls with "adult" dancers and were welcomed. Many of the youth flocked around the two young callers who were just out of their teens and were the hottest things at this convention. They are Hunter Keller and Justin (?) and we got to dance with each of them several times. We also danced with a young lady caller, Christina Mooreland.. We were walking past the youth hall when we heard this beautiful voice doing "Colors of the Wind." We both thought it was Deborah Carroll-Jones, one of our favorite female callers. Were we surprised when it was a young lady instead!

The dress code was relaxed. While most folks wore square dance style clothing, fewer petticoats were in evidence, and more long prairie skirts. A few folks insisted on wearing jeans and there were the odd short sleeved shirt and even a couple of pairs of shorts. In past conventions they might have been asked to leave, but not this year. Still, everyone dressed well, as this is a "dress up" kind of event.

The convention was excellent. Of course, all of them are! The committee that runs the con- vention is a result of as much as six years of preparing to run the four day affair. They compete four years out for the privilege, but they work for several years before that getting the venue reserved. getting the local convention and visitors bureau working their way and planning all of the activities of the convention. All this comes before they submit their bid knowing all the while that the major work is still ahead. After they get the bid for the , convention they put together the program. Dancers reserve rooms through them, callers agree to call, all rooms have to be scheduled, decorations, international publicity (which means we get to go places and invite dancers to come).



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