Old-Time Barn Dance raises funds for Steele County Free Fair
Visitors to the Steele County Fairgrounds were encouraged to swing their partners and tap their toes on Saturday, during the Old-Time Barn Dance fundraiser. Proceeds will benefit the Steele County Free Fair (SCFF) Building Fund.
The event began on Saturday afternoon, with entertainment by the Steele Steppers Square Dancers. Caller Wayne Kubicek provided music for the event while also providing instructions for the lively square (and round) dances.
Wayne’s wife, Betty Jean, was also present on Saturday, and she came ready to dance. Following squaredancing tradition, Wayne wore a blue neckerchief around his neck, to match Betty’s brilliant blue dress. Typically, dancing partners will color-coordinate pieces of their outfits. Wayne explained that partners will usually wear a matching top, tie, neckerchief or bolo tie (a “cowboy’s tie,” made with leather or chord and tied with metal) to match their partner’s dress.
Members of the group traveled from all across Minnesota to attend the barn dance, some traveling for more than 50 miles to reach the fairgrounds. The group was large enough to form two squares (groups of people dancing together) but Wayne said that the number of square dancers in southern Minnesota has declined drastically in recent years. At one time, Wayne said that there were as many as 19 square dancing groups based in southern Minnesota. Today, he said, there are only five.
“When there were events like these, we used to have enough people for 15 squares,” Wayne said. “Not anymore.”
According to Wayne, the number of callers in the area has also declined. Wayne knows of only five who serve the immediate area, and says that, at age 73, he is one of the youngest callers in Minnesota. He is currently teaching the craft to others, in hopes that they will continue with the tradition.
Although the number of square dancers and callers may be declining, this group is still steppin’ strong. The group was full of joy as they swirled and twirled in front of the Allan R. Radel Family Pavilion on the fairgrounds. They encouraged the spectators to try to join them, offering to teach them the basics of square dancing. Throughout the afternoon, the dancers demonstrated a variety of techniques. As the sun was high in the sky on the pleasant fall day, the dancers took frequent breaks to avoid becoming overheated or dehydrated. During the breaks, the square dancers shared what they enjoy about events like this. Friendship, they said, was one of the best benefits.
“We just have fun doing it,” said Wayne. As the event was part of the SCFF’s fundraiser, the group was also happy to help support the cause.
That afternoon, the dancers ended their portion of the event by linking hands in a large circle, taking a bow and exclaiming, “Thank you!” Other events took place at the pavilion, in hopes of drawing more supporters of the fair to come to the fairgrounds and enjoy themselves.
A pork burger supper and cash bar were available and guests also enjoyed music from musicians including the Dan Stursa Band (who have been performing at the fair for 41 years) and the D-C Drifters. Around 7 p.m. a live auction took place, followed by the last band, Chris Brooks and the Silver City Boys. A number of generous sponsors and volunteers also donated their time and resources to help ensure the event was a success. “Without our volunteers and their hard work, we couldn’t put this on,” he said.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the SCFF Building Fund and will address a number of upcoming needs and improvements for the fairgrounds. “We’re hoping this will bring in some decent money from the food, beverages and auction,” said SCFF Board Secretary/Manager Jim Gleason. “But, everyone is also having a good time, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Gleason said he was happy to see a nice crowd come to the auction that evening and that the Fair Board greatly appreciates all their supporters. During Friday’s event, a banner displaying the names of donors was visible along the pavilion’s wall. Soon, said Gleason, a permanent display will feature donors of $100 or more.
Currently, the fairgrounds is also preparing for the winter season. During the winter months, the fairgrounds is available as a storage space for vehicles, campers and more.
To learn more about the SCFF, to make a donation or inquire about storage space, call the SCFF office at 507-451-5305.