When Fred Buckley and I first talked about our collaboration on a workshop 3 years ago we both had the same image in mind. Fred, as many of you know, is a social butterfly! He just loooves people! For me, some of my happiest memories are of the large family parties I was used to as a child. The kind where the adults danced to the wee small hours of the night and we children finally fell asleep curled up in a corner somewhere while all the merriment continued on around us. And this just on my Dad’s home made wine and Mum’s home made ginger beer!!!
As much as Fred and I, and Eddie (Fred’s wife) too, enjoy learning new dances, we enjoy the socializing and the FUN of dancing with our friends the most. So we wanted to have an event that focused on learning a few good dances that everyone could manage, (having lots of laughs), everyone eating together, (having lots of laughs), then dancing in the evening with music that most people can dance to (having lots of laughs)!! And that’s how ‘Let The Good Times Roll …’ came about in 2003. I should add that my parents in the UK very much approved!!!
This year was #3 and we hoped that again there would be dancers who would share our philosophy. To our delight there were and by early September we ran out of space and had to cut off the registration and start a waiting list. So on October 22 there were 150 dancers wending their way to the Victoria Park United Church.
But let me back up a little to the Friday evening. I reckon no one can manage without friends and Fred, Eddie and I are very fortunate to have some real good friends. The evening before the event, there they were hauling tables and chairs, putting up lights (that kept falling down! Anyone got any ideas for hanging up lights on dappled concrete?!), running around with hats & boots in their hands (the paper kind!) and so on. All was done with good humour and light hearted banter. I should add that my long-suffering non line-dancing husband also came along to give a hand! Fred and Eddie’s 19 year old son, Freddie, and young daughter, Sammy, were amazing workers. Freddie is so strong that he lifted the heavy tables like they were feathers and Sammy took on any task that was handed to her. Well raised, these two. Even further back, there was everyone who passed on so many things for the raffle and Dale who gift wrapped all the gifts so they looked absolutely wonderful. Come the day there were helping hands again. Our sincere thanks to everyone. We couldn’t have done it without you.
So finally the big day arrived and with it the important guests – the dancers! They came in from as far afield as Niagara Falls, New York, Brampton, Peterborough, Newmarket, Sudbury and areas all around Toronto as well as the city itself. And they were all ready to have fun! I should explain at this point that we don’t have room in one space for all these dancers! I know … you’re scratchin’ your head – “Well then why did they allow them all to come?”! Well, last year we had an experiment. There are two halls across a small corridor from each other. We hooked up the sound equipment so that the same music is in both halls and the instructor can be heard in both. It makes for some rather strange variations when the instructor is not in the room but line dancers are patient and inventive people and they managed! So we did that again this year so we could have the larger numbers.
We started off with Val Keller who knows how to get a room movin’! Val is a fund raiser par excellence. Her annual event ‘Dancin’ for Miracles’ held in Wasaga in September raised $13,000 for cancer research. What a great event it is. A ‘must do’ for Ontario line dancers and others from further afield. Val reckoned we needed a little Rod Stewart in our lives and got us started with ‘It Had To Be You’ choreographed by Denise Boyle.
Hot on her heels came a dear friend and wonderful instructor, Tammy Wyatt. I have learnt so much from Tammy over the years and she has supported and encouraged me every step of the way. You have to have fun in Tammy’s classes or you are made of clay!! ‘Be Strong’ by Audrey Watson was Tammy’s choice and she raced from room to room ensuring that we got that final turn! I was supposed to be the lead in Fun Room #2 but everyone knows better than to follow me!!! Thankfully Rhoda was also in the front!
We then had some open dancing in Fun Hall #1 while, in the second Hall, experienced and fun loving couples dancers Jim and Linda Booth patiently treated some of the dancers to some beginner two step instruction. There were quite a few giggles when I looked in and I was told by one dancer that her partner nearly decapitated her at one point!! But they soldiered on and now reckon they might be able to do a basic two step around the floor!
It was then my turn to take over the mike. I started off with an easy beginners dance - ‘I Love this Town’ - written by Mary Wicks to a great old country tune sung by Nanci Griffiths and Jimmy Buffet. The dancers were then used as an experimental group for a new dance called ‘Don’t Let Go’ to ‘Baby, Don’t You Let Go’ by Trisha Yearwood from her latest CD. What a patient group they were as they wandered along a beach in the Caribbean, running away from Wilma (the storm), kicking up crabs and clapping their hands for Trisha, let alone wondering what on earth an ‘Odd Bod’ was!. Meanwhile Fun Hall #2 had turned into a Nude Beach with Fred and Tammy in charge and they wouldn’t let me in the room to check it out! Suffice to say, you had to be there!
The next part of the afternoon was quite exciting for Fred and me. We had written a dance together especially for the event and this was the first time it was to be taught. We called it ‘Soft & Slow’ to Josh Turner’s ‘Your Man’. Fred took the mike in Hall #1 while I took the front on #2! Well, I don’t know, there sure were a few variations and lots of merriment as we tried to coordinate our steps! Finally, both halls got on the right foot and ‘Soft & Slow’ became smooth and seamless!!
Fred then took centre stage to teach a fun easy dance 'Wrong Way' written by Barry Amato. He then debuted a new dance (step sheet just written a few days before!) called ‘All the Way’, to a song of the same name by Craig David. It’s a smooth, funky dance that the dancers picked up well and enjoyed. And who can not enjoy dancing when Fred is teaching?! He is a talented instructor with an ability to explain the trickiest step so that everyone can understand and the patience and determination to ensure that we enjoy the dance at the same time …. that we are not struggling, just having fun with our variations!
Last but not least we had a Special Guest Instructor for our ‘Blast from the Past’. None other than popular local instructor and talented choreographer, Kathy K. (Kaczmarek), who led us down memory lane with ‘Stompin’ It Out’, written by one of our own, Torontonian Silke Henke, many moons ago. It put smiles on many dancers’ faces as they remembered enjoying this dance when they first learnt to line dance.
It was then time to set up the Main Hall for the Dinner Buffet. A short delay caused by a fuse in the stove had a positive side in that dancers got a little longer to rest their feet! It was a good thing as Fred is a master magician with the music controls as he ensured that everyone got their moment on the dance floor. What a terrific DJ he is. Always alert to the floor, ready to call out the first wall to get us all going and bounding onto the floor to dance beside anyone who looks uncertain. And, of course, if Fred got too carried away Eddie was there ready to press the right button! Eddie is an invaluable and crucial part of our team; her hard work in the background is often not visible but is absolutely essential to the success of the event. All too soon, it was time to call a halt! There were still plenty of people who would have been willing to continue on but the Church insists on an 11 p.m. finish as it’s in a residential neighbourhood. That said, it was a full and, I hope, happy day for those who attended.
I should add that a combined total of $700 was raised from the raffle, sale of the step sheet booklets and a special raffle gift kindly donated by Claudette Bunting. The money has been sent to the Canadian Red Cross to help the Hurricane Victims. The 50/50 raised $165 and Fred is going to consult with his seniors to find out where there is a need. Last year he bought a television for a senior who could not afford one.
Our thanks to everyone who attended. We do hope we will see you again next year!