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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment June 24, 2016

8/12/2014 12:19:00 PM
Square dancers circled round through Sisters
Square dancers rendezvoused in Sisters last weekend  including a flash mob at the Country Fair. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Square dancers rendezvoused in Sisters last weekend including a flash mob at the Country Fair. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

More than a hundred square dancers from all over the Pacific Northwest headed into Sisters last weekend for the 11th annual Central Oregon Round-up weekend festival. The group teamed up on Thursday evening to swing their partners at Bronco Billy's Ranch Grill and Saloon for their Trail's End Dance.

Lonnie Waak is chairman of the Central Oregon Round-up, and he makes sure things run smoothly.

"I am a member of Bachelor Beauts square-dance club in Bend, and the three other clubs are Sagebrush Shufflers from Prineville, Sundown Round Dance (a Central Oregon group), and Redrock Squares from Redmond," said Waak. "The round-up is more than the four clubs getting together. Any square or round dancers from anywhere can sign up, and we have a lot of last-minute registrations."

Each club has their own committee, and each year the committees are in charge of something different at the round-up. Marial Gertz belongs to three clubs and is the registrar for the round-up.

"We really enjoy coming to Sisters," said Gertz. "It's a wonderful community that is very accommodating. Square dancers seem to be a different breed of people and we come from every walk of life, from a children's orthopedic surgeon to firefighters and even quilters from Sisters. We all have one goal in common: to have fun with what we love to do."

Susan Beyer, a square dancer and quilter from Sisters, was getting ready to dance with her partner.

"When we moved to Sisters in 1997, I started quilting and square dancing about the same time. I belong to the Bachelor Beauts square-dancing club and East of the Cascades Quilting Group," she said. "The round-up is a wonderful social event for having fun and making new friends."

Master of ceremonies Kippin Parret from Bend enjoys being a caller for the square dancers during the weekend festival.

"I like to sing a country tune or change it up a bit, depending on the crowd and where we are. We're moving away from the old traditional calling," said Parret. "Saturday night is the biggest night, and we have a featured caller and cuer team."

The square-dance festival was in full swing and full dress attire on Saturday night and the dancers transformed the Sisters High School commons into a huge dance floor.

"The energy in the room, dressing up, it's like a date night," said Sharon Schaedler, square dancer from Prineville. "I square danced all the way through school."

Featured caller Darrell Newell and cuer Carolyn Cook kicked off the dance with Cook as cuer for a round dance.

"Round dancing is a form of a waltz, and movements are slower. Next up is a square dance and caller Darrell Newell will take over," Waak said. "Callers prompt the square dancers and cuers do more or less the same thing for round dancing."

Square dancers promenaded in their colorful Western attire as they made their moves based on a series of impromptu instructions from the caller with the microphone. Partners got separated, circled left and right with others from the square, doing half sashays and do-si-dos. Then, by the end of a sequence, they all arrived back home with their partners.

Pete Ribble, the Central Oregon Round-up historian, was enjoying mingling among friends.

"Years ago there used to be a square dance group that started up in Sisters called the Swinging Mountaineers, but they couldn't get enough dancers so they moved to Bend. I am researching the history of square dancing in Central Oregon and have found that some of the square dancing dates back to being born in Sisters," Ribble said. "It's the smile of those faces when they are square dancing that made me decide to study the history of the dance. The square dance is an American institution."

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