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    May 11
    Dark. No dance.

    May 25
    Terry Halley, caller
    Ken Prattt, cuer

    The Checkerboard Squares dance at the Rockwood Grange, located at 183rd and Southeast Stark Street between the Taco Time restaurant and the Motel 6 in Gresham, Ore. Admission: $5 for non-members.

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Square Dancers Wield Political Clout (Just Ask Jimmy Carter)

Former President Jimmy Carter attributed the launch of his political career to his fellow square dancers in a Time magazine article published Jan. 30, 2012 (page 64).

In the interview article, Carter told writer Belinda Luscombe that during his first-ever political campaign in 1962, his square dance friends campaigned for him throughout his district.

He said he won the election by a narrow margin. Luscombe quotes Carter as saying that he probably would have left politics had he lost that first election. And Carter admits he probably wouldn’t have been president if he hadn’t been a square dancer.

So square dancers, you’re in good company!


Celebrate Buffalo Bill’s Birthday With the Checkerboard Squares

The Checkerboards are celebrating Buffalo Bill’s birthday with a western-themed dance on Feb. 25. Rumor has it that our club president-turned-bouncer, Steve Rogers, will be confiscating all caps guns and water pistols at the door (so you may want to leave them at home).

I’ve also heard that Grange master Tony Haskins is a little worried about spurs scratching his pristine wood floor at the Rockwood Grange. Tough luck, Tony. We’re expecting a crowd of cowboys and cowgirls. So pull out the cowboy duds, spurs and all, and come dance with us!

2012 Mid-Winter Photos Bring Back Happy Memories

Checkerboard Squares Win Mid-Winter Ribbon

The Checkerboard Squares won a free Mid-Winter ribbon for being the club with the highest percentage of its members registered at the time of  the ribbon presentation. 

The Checkerboard Squares often eat together Saturday night at Pop's Branding Iron Restaurant in Albany.


The colossal salad brings a smile to Checkerboard Lee Putman.

At Mid-Winter, the club members had their annual Saturday dinner at  Pop’s Branding Iron. The restaurant has ample seating for large groups in the banquet room, so the club can sit together at one long table. After seeing the size of the salads, a new member said of Pop’s: “I can see why you guys like to eat here.”

Another Mid-Winter Checkerboard tradition is meeting for an after-after party following the evening square dances to enjoy visiting and munching snacks. 

Resale Clothing A Highlight at 2012 Mid-Winter Square Dance Festival in Albany

From the length of the line winding around the clothing resale area Friday night at the Mid-Winter festival, I deduce that shopping is a favorite activity for square dancers. A national caller and cuer were on stage in other buildings of the Expo center, but still dancers waited in line for the single cashier to ring up their purchases. I saw people walk out of the resale room carrying bulging 32-gallon leaf bags of clothes. 

I visited the resale area not to shop but to inspect. For the first time ever, I had tried out Mid-Winter’s nifty computerized resale form, and offered four blouses and two skirts for consignment. Now I wanted to see if I could find my garments on the racks…or if they had sold. The too-small blue blouse was nowhere to be seen. Sold? I hope so.

Shoppers carefully select clothing in the resale area at Mid-Winter 2012.

The beautiful maroon blouse with the double ruffled sleeves was absent from the rack holding red blouses. Sold? Probably. It was lovely. I’ve had second thoughts on selling that one, but I already had a maroon blouse when my Mom gave me this one. Maybe I should have sold my original maroon blouse. It was plainer. But Mom had made it. That blouse has sentimental value even if it lacks the resale blouse’s style. No, stop thinking like that! After all, I’ll get $5– minus the consignment charge– for the maroon blouse. That thought makes me feel even worse. 

The prettiest petticoats go fast at Mid-Winter's resale.

The white blouse with the capped sleeves was still hanging with the other white blouses. I found the too-big-for-me polka-dotted mauve blouse hanging between other colors. It apparently defied categorizing. The matching mauve skirt (too small for me) was gone. I found the white skirt with lace insets and straightened it on the hanger.

Racks of used square dance clothing fill the end of the round dance hall.

I ran into a friend buying an armload of clothes. “This blouse looks just like yours,” she said, holding up a red lacy blouse like the one my mom gave me for Christmas when I first started square dancing. The blouse looked new (no, it wasn’t mine). “And these sandals. I just ordered a pair like them for $120. These are $18,” she said. I asked if she planned to return the new ones.

Resale is a great way to purge a too-tightly packed closet. And it’s a great way to expand one’s wardrobe affordably. A big thanks to the Mid-Winter staff, which works long hours to provide the resale room.

Cake Walk Awarding Free Cakes to Be Highlight at Next Checkerboard Dance

A cake walk will be part of the entertainment at the Checkeboard Squares’ dance Jan. 14. Cakes will be given away to winners, not sold. This is not a fundraiser. So come prepared to take home a delicious cake. The dance will begin with rounds at 7:30 p.m.; squares will begin at 8 p.m. The usual potluck will begin at 10 p.m. 

Cakes at the cake walk will be lovelier than this flat, messy cake made by the Checkerboards' Web master.

‘Follow the Star’ Pageant in Gladstone, Ore., Worth Attending

This square dancer has lived in Portland, Ore., more than 20 years but had never heard of “Follow the Star” until this Christmas season. I attended tonight and highly recommend this free family event in Gladstone, Ore., to all square dancers and non-square dancers alike.

Unlike drive-through nativity scenes, this 45-minute pilgrimage to Jesus’ manger winds along outdoor torch-lit pathways filled with surly Roman soldiers, musical surprises and high-quality pageantry. The genius of the event is that it is interactive. Participants not only view the Christmas story, as told in the Bible, but also take part in the unfolding of the events. And you learn a bit about the history of the era–think “The Nativity Story” movie from a few years ago. 

I don’t want to give away the surprises–throughout the evening the emcee urged returning guests to avoid telling newcomers about the upcoming scenes. But if you go, be prepared for a memorable experience, not a cheesy bathrobe Sunday school play or Hollywood glitz. Participants begin building the elaborate sets in August. Actors memorize extensive dialogue. Their hard work is evident. 

Three more showings remain: Dec. 9, 10, 11. Saturday is usually packed, so try the Friday or Sunday showings. Gates open on Friday at 5:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday gates open at 4:30 p.m. Arrive early, stand in line for a free ticket (no reserved seating is available), and then relax in the auditorium where local musicians entertain with Christmas music. Tonight’s performers included an ensemble (singer, pianist, bass player and glockenspiel player), a pianist, and a vocalist. (Hint: Some people go home or out to eat rather than waiting in the auditorium.) Audience carol-singing and announcements fall between performers…about every half hour.

When your group’s number is projected on the big screen, you gather at the side of the auditorium, don your hats and gloves, and follow a guide to the first stop. Six more follow. Free refreshments come at the end. Dress warmly. I was happy to have thick socks and boots, gloves and a hooded coat.

Address: 19800 Oatfield Rd., Gladstone, Oregon. Take the Gladstone/DMV exit off Interstate 205. Turn right onto 82nd Ave; turn right onto Oatfield Road. (The Gladstone Park Conference Center is on the west side of the freeway. The entrance is well-marked.)

The Seventh-day Adventists sponsor the event. I’m not an Adventist, but hats off to the Adventist Church for reminding us of what Christmas is all about…and for doing it with style.