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Artsminded: A perfect storm leads to memorable Barn Dance

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columns River Falls, 54022
River Falls Journal
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River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

While they are on midwinter sabbatical is a good time to consider what the "Barn Dances" give to the community. You remember them -- they're not in a barn exactly although parts of the River Falls Academy have been compared to one in their austerity, draftiness, ability to accommodate all sorts of human animals and human activities.

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In fact, if we had the dances in a real barn we would have to charge much more than the $5 per person that we do and they would lose much of their old fashioned "available to everyone and barring none" appeal.

Renting barns with old wood floors, charming rafters, and, usually, a red exterior, costs money. We get the gym at the academy for nothing from River Falls Parks and Recreation and we get free listing in Parks and Rec publications.

The space is fine -- large, finished wooden floors, acoustics that mean we can hear the live bands and the experienced callers very well, tables and chairs in abundance and the bleachers which most people prefer to rest on.

Let's look at the most recent CAB Barn Dance, Nov. 10. All agreed that it was among our best -- but one of our long time and most loyal volunteers remembers it as she remembers each of them. Here's how, Katie Chaffee, describes her observations as she sat at the admission and refreshment table greeting late comers:

"I remember little kids dancing with old people in those wonderful rounds and reels. I remember all the smiling faces.

I remember how happy the band members and the caller were to have all those people enjoying themselves and the music.

I remember the satisfaction of the CAB volunteers who have given so much to make these dances happen.

I remember thinking that this is what it takes to make a strong community of happy, healthy people.

I remember thinking we need a whole lot more of just this kind of community celebration."

While we're at it, we need to thank the other members of the Barn Dance committee who put in many happy hours helping us set up, sell refreshments (at very low prices), encourage bashful dancers to join in and dance whenever there is time.

These generous people receive nothing for their time -- we let them in free, but some choose to pay anyway to help keep the barn dances alive, they are: Elise Nooney, Renne Soberg, Krista Spieler, and Jean Ziebart. And of course, CAB board member Liz Wertz designs our wonderfully original posters, Dick Beckham, Thomas R. Smith and I take responsibility for organizing the whole thing. Thomas locates and arranges for the bands, Dick handles the cash, and I try to promote.

Back to the November Barn Dance. It was exemplary in that it didn't just bring us together all at one time it brought together most of our fondest dreams for a great barn dance: Enough people came to pay the band -- often CAB has to subsidize the dances; it included two teen birthday parties -- it's great when imaginative parents think of this way to do family celebrations; a group of Japanese exchange students from the University of Minnesota joined us; small children always abound but this dance also had a large contingent of young people; the caller Ann Carter was one of the best in our group of callers; and we had one of our favorite bands The Barn Cats.

Okay so we have no barn dance until Jan. 12 -- with the Rush River Ramblers -- but we are blessed with other wonderful things to do over the holiday season.

--Velveteen Rabbit: Community Theatre presentation on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8, at 7 p.m. at North Hall Auditorium on the UWRF campus. Tickets are $6, $8 and $10. They are available at Dish and the Spoon Café and at the door.

--The Night We Saved the Beatles: Thomas R. Smith will celebrate, as well as sell and sign his new book with a commemoration of John Lennon through poetry, story and song at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8. This free event will be held at the River Falls Public Library

--That's A Fine Motorbike Exhibit opens Sunday, Dec. 16, with a reception 1-3 p.m. at the library.

--These Are a Few of My Favorite Things will open at Gallery 120 on Friday, Dec. 7, with a reception from 4-8 pm. The show will feature wood, jewelry, paintings, chocolate and more.

--All Community Art Show at the library continues through Sunday, Dec. 9

--UWRF Art Department Scholarship Sale will include original art donated and created by faculty and students to help support a student scholarship. Runs through Wednesday, Dec. 12 at Kleinpell Fine Arts Gallery 101.

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