What do you think of when someone mentions Wasaga Beach? Maybe that incredibly long and wide sandy beach, swimming in the warm waters of the freshwater bay where you have to walk miles (possibly a slight exaggeration!) for it to reach your neck, or perhaps having a picnic under one of the many shady trees along the shore? On the other hand maybe it's an image of motor cycles and tourist stores packed full of swim suits and buckets and spades! Bet you don't think of a war between the US and Britain!! But way back in the early 1800s when those two nations were having an almighty power struggle for control of some of our land, this area became a key factor. Great battles ensued with the Brits ultimately claiming victory. However, for good or bad, as with many wars, once they' re won the victors and defeated go on to tackle other issues and Wasaga Beach regained its original peaceful, isolated existence.
Even at the price of four shillings for an acre of land, Wasaga Beach didn't have much luck with settlers as the soil was too sandy although its abundance of trees encouraged some loggers to set up camp. It was the intrepid John Van Vlack purchasing 69 acres of land that paved the way for the beginnings of a village. Mr. Van Valck fished commercially, established a shingles mill, opened a general store and became the first postmaster for the area. It wasn't long before the first hotel was built and some settlers reckoned they could grow turnips, oats, wheat and peas. However, it was in the early 1900's when a steel bridge was built across the Notawasaga River that Wasaga Beach came into its own as a resort town. Even way back then dancing was popular in Wasaga and a dance hall was built across from the Dardanella Hotel.
Wasaga Beach sure had its adventures! In 1934, using the beach as a runway, the first successful overseas flight from Canada took off with the plane, named "The Trail of the Caribou", landing in England, 30 hours and 55 minutes later!! The popularity of a new mode of transport, the car, also perked up the Beach making it accessible for not only the wealthy vacationer. I read that, after the Second World War, as many as 100,000 people would head out to put sand between their toes on sunny weekends. Combining this gaiety with souvenir stands, bowling alleys, dance halls, and amusement arcades resulted in a writer of those times describing Wasaga Beach as "Coney Island, Atlantic City and Toronto's old Sunnyside all rolled into one"! It was a bit too wild though so Wasaga Beach asked the Province with its deeper pockets to take over the beachfront. Thanks to that wise decision, we now have large areas of shoreline where not a building can be seen and the pines and large shade trees dominate. Lifeguard towers, change huts, washrooms were built and vehicles were banned from the beach.
I'm sure you reckon I've rambled on enough, so let's jump into the present. Wasaga Beach has become a thriving community. With its easy access to nearby Barrie and York Region, it has become a year round home to many
families. It has also become an attractive spot for retirees with great golf courses, miles of hiking and cycling trails, beautiful beach and ski hills close by. (At this point I must assure you that no relative of mine is a real estate agent in Wasaga Beach! - though I wouldn't mind if they were I must say!)
"So what has this got to do with dancing?" you might be asking! Well, I'm suggesting that you couldn't get a better combination than a dance weekend and a picnic and swim at Wasaga Beach. And that is what we did September
But not just any dance weekend! This was the 5th anniversary of 'Dancing for Miracles' organized by Val Keller and her family and many friends. Over the years this group has raised thousands of dollars for cancer research and the hope was that through dance and fun more could be raised this year. Val always has tricks up her sleeve (this year the theme was 'History') so it was with eager anticipation that we headed off to the Festival Grounds for the Friday night dance. As always the room was colourfully decorated and we were warmly welcomed along with 300 dancers from all over Ontario, some from the US and one from Scotland. After a short intro from Val and a stocking interlude introducing the instructors (I don't have photos as I was occupied with the stockings!) the evening was set aside for dancing with one of my favourite DJs, Lynn Warden, who ably controlled the sound system, catering for all levels and tastes in dance and music. We were sure ready for our beds when we were sent home at midnight!
Bright and early the next morning, the Vikings hit the Beach with 'Street Dance'. Boy, I didn't know that the Vikings did line dancing. Shows you that line dancing attracts all kinds! First time instructor at the event, showing no nerves, Linda Baguley chose the fun 'Irish Stew' to get our toes tapping and our bodies moving. Moses followed, to much astonishment and merriment, (aka "Croc" Robert Young -- see the photos!) with 'One Mississippi' and 'The Ants Dance'. Yes, line dancing started way back in biblical times so we're in good company! 'Sunshine & Summertime' was brought to us by Donna Laurin, an experienced and capable instructor. Another first timer here, Deanna Allan did an excellent job of teaching 'Made in Spain'. From Sauble Beach, Pat Pallas then took to the stage with 'Midnight Rider'. Pat has two strings to her bow as she also teaches couples dancing with husband Joe. Mike Bishop and Deb Levesque organized
couples dancing in the next room and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves when I popped my head in to check it out!
It was definitely time for a break to enjoy our 'Toonie Lunch'. The lunch is put together by the volunteers, both Saturday and Sunday, is great value and a terrific idea so dancers don't have to rush around trying to find somewhere to eat and thereby miss precious dancing time! I should add there were always baskets of fruit and snacks available should anyone get peckish.
I had fun starting off the afternoon session with 'One Bad Day' and 'Turn Me On'. I know Tom Jones would have been impressed with the hip rolls! Popular instructor, Fred Buckley, then took to the stage with 'Some People'. That is, I thought it might be Fred but I was told it was Adam and whoever it was certainly kept tugging at his fig leaf! Barbie with a middle age spread followed with 'No Quitter'. I think she could have been a relative of Cathy Montgomery but I'm not completely sure! Then great excitement when we heard the King was in the house! Obviously he had come straight
from one of his Casino gigs as he had a fabulous black outfit on and he soon got us moving with 'Jailhouse Creole'. I thought Kathy K. was supposed to teach at that time but I guess she had another important engagement! There was some confusion with the next instructor; some people called him Dan Morrison and others called him/her Eve! This individual did have fig leafs all over the place but I didn't see an apple in his/her hand! Whatever .. 'Dancin' Fool(s)' as we are, Eve soon had us moving pretty quickly over the dance floor! Adam and Eve took a moment out of their busy creation schedules to teach us 'El Tajono' -- a dance they had created together.
There was great excitement as we waited to greet the 'Mystery Instructors'. There was a cheer when a refined, sophisticated, and suave group of Country folk took to the stage to teach us 'Hillbillies in the Hay'. Can't imagine
why they chose that dance although I did see a little bit of hay floating around them!
At this point we all headed out for dinner, a swim, a walk on the beach or all combined, to return refreshed at 7:30. The dance floor was soon full until I had the pleasure (I think!) of introducing some very special guests. I bet you didn't know that Wasaga is second only to Nashville with its plethora of country music stars and is also renown for many other famous singers! Don't shake your head .... it is! During the evening we were privileged and honoured to share the moment with Bubbling Brook, Trish the Dish, the Beach Bums, Sony and The Chair, John Revolting and Fig Newton, Kenny Dodge-Them and Dolly Part-Them as well as the Extremes and Stevie Wonderbra! Suffice to say I can't find the appropriate words to describe their performances so you've just got to check out the photos!
During the evening Val acknowledged the volunteers who have helped with the event for all these years. As she so passionately noted, the event could not succeed without the hours of work that the volunteers put in behind the scenes. We are so fortunate in our line dance world to have people like these who are willing to put in the effort to ensure that all who attend are well looked after and enjoy themselves. This well organized event must have taken a tremendous amount of work and dedication. Many, many thanks to all involved. At the same time, Val thanked the dancers who attended for their very generous participation in the fund raising activities. Val's enormous efforts were acknowledged by a standing ovation from all attending.
A special mention should be made of a special lady, Mrs. Betty Keller. Mrs. Keller and her friends spend the year between events collecting gifts for the Penny Sale and the Chinese Auction. Nowhere else have I ever seen such a mammoth array of gifts. The Penny Sale is enjoyed by all as they meander the length of the tables choosing which gifts they'd like to win. Meanwhile in the auction, for only a $1 an envelope, most of the dancers ended up with quite a collection of prizes! I don't know how she did it, but by Sunday morning, Mrs. Keller was able to announce that $1800 was raised at the Penny Sale.
There were other ways to win prizes - you just had to have a star on the bottom of your lunch plate or send in music requests ahead of time to the DJ. In addition, everyone received a bottle of wine in celebration of the event's 5th birthday. Appreciation was expressed for the many donations received and, in addition, $1000 was donated by Corby Distilleries Ltd., and $5000 by Mary Lou Gruber. There was not a dry eye in the house when these donations were announced. No one left empty handed from this event on the Sunday afternoon and, more importantly, they also left with memories of fun, laughter, and the warm feeling of being part of an event that shows how much the dancers in the line dance community care about each other.