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Pendleton Charms Dancers at 2010 Summer Festival

Squares in the mainstream hall dance to callers Les Seeley and Renee Ruud.

Somewhere between 300 and 400 square dancers convened in Pendleton on July 15-18 for “Back in the Saddle Again,” the 2010 summer festival.

Pendleton has spent millions in the past couple of years renovating the rodeo grounds and spiffing up the city. A paved walk winds along the river. Trees and awnings shade the sidewalks of a downtown filled with unique shops and restaurants. You’ll even find a Penney’s. Nice hotels such as a Red Lion Inn and Oxford Suites have sprung up around town.

Some of the Checkerboard Squares meet for breakfast at Shari's on Friday morning. Most members sported the new 2011 summer festival T-shirts.

I spotted at least three shady parks as I drove from my motel (yes, Pendleton’s Motel 6 actually is clean and comfortable!) to the Convention Center, which is right next to the rodeo grounds…and a Dairy Queen. That was a popular spot for dancers who wanted an ice cream or cold drink.

In a brilliant move to get people into local shops, the Chamber of Commerce has developed a “charm trail.” A brochure lists dozens of businesses, each of which has for sale one to three charms for $1 each. Charms include pie and fork on a plate (Shari’s), a lantern (the Chamber of Commerce), a rooster (Sunshine Gourmet Shoppe), and a quilt block (Pendleton Quiltworks)…for starters. Saturday morning, groups of square dancers dotted downtown, walking from store to store buying charms for their bracelets. By Sunday morning, some charm bracelets were thick with charms and jingled as women danced.

One of the most memorable shops, Hamley & Co., featured saddles and tack as well as beautiful, high-end western wear. For example, a fringed leather riding skirt sold for $900.

Members of the 2011 summer festival committee pose in their outfits. The members unveiled the clothes, in Portland Area Council colors, at Friday night's dance.

I wish I’d had time to visit the Pendleton Woolen Mills and tour Underground Pendleton, which takes tourists underground to the Shamrock Card Room, Hop Sing’s Chinese Laundry, an ice cream parlor, and tunnels beneath the sidewalks. Visitors walk through a secret passageway to a Prohibition card room and much more.

The Heritage Station Museum along the railroad is another stop I’ll make when I visit Pendeton again. The museum even includes a historical schoolhouse.

The convention center had plenty of space for dancing and for vendors. The staff was helpful and continually wiping down bathroom counters and emptying trash to keep the facility clean and welcoming.

Fiddlegrass, a four-member bluegrass band, play for dances throughout the festival. They complimented caller Marshall Flippo's country twang.

All the above made the festival location enjoyable. And Pendleton is about the same distance away from Portland as is Seattle.

Now about the festival itself: Kay Rogers and only five others planned the whole thing. A highlight was the Fiddlegrass band, which played throughout the festival, including the Saturday night after party (non-stop mainstream dancing sponsored by the 2011 summer festival) and Sunday heavenly hoedown.

I asked a friend if the hoedown counted as church, and she said, “No.” But the music was uplifting, featuring old gospel favorites such as “I Shall Not Be Moved” and “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder I’ll Be There.” The Crew (minus Jim Hattrick) sang close harmony. Round dancers waltzed to “Amazing Grace.” During the two-hour hoedown gospel dance, delegates met for a state meeting.

The Checkerboard Squares win a plaque for being the club with the highest percentage of dancers at the festival. Mark represented the club and received the plaque during the flag ceremony.

A flag ceremony with Jonny Roberts singing the “Star Spangled Banner,” the River City Riders performing and a showcase of rounds started off Saturday evening’s dance.

Dancers came from as far away as Tennessee and Idaho. I met the other Checkerboard Squares, the club in Edmonds, Washington, that shares my club’s name. I talked with dancers as I worked at the 2011 summer festival booth, selling ribbons (54 sold at the festival), T-shirts for $10, and raffle tickets for a sternwheeler dinner cruise and a quilt.

Summer festival was the most fun square dancing I’ve had since…well, probably since nationals in Kentucky. A big thank you to the 2010 festival committee!

The Checkerboards work the 2011 summer festival booth, which sold festival ribbons for $35, T-shirts for $10 and raffle tickets.

Festival-goers dance mainstream in the main hall.

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One Response

  1. Such a nice reprt on the event. We are so glad you had a good time! We hope you make it back soon!

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