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Square-dancing Brings Good Friends, Good Health to the 2010 Pennsylvania Farm Show

Harrisburg – If you find yourself in the midst of colorful poodle skirts and matching shirts and ties, you might want to get out of the way; you may have found yourself in the middle of a square, with four couples square-dancing around you.

More than 500 people, dressed in a variety of traditional outfits, gathered at the 2010 Pennsylvania Farm Show on Monday, Jan. 11, for the Square Dance Contest and Exhibition. This is a unique contest, as most square-dancers only dance for fun and competitions are not common.

Dances, however, are common, when you know where to find them.  The Pennsylvania Square-dance Federation has an annual convention in August every year that draws 600-700 people.  The national convention is held every June and can attract 8,000-12,000 dancers, depending on the location.  The convention was even held in Hawaii and Alaska, although numbers may not have been as strong those years.

One couple dancing at the farm show attended both of those conventions, and many more.  Jim and Pat Carson of Wellsboro, Tioga County, dance with the Canyon Squares.  Celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this June, the Carsons have been dancing together for 33 years.  They started square-dancing when friends got them interested, and they saw it as a good activity to do together. 

“It only costs $6-10 a night for a couple to dance,” says Jim.  “You can’t see a movie for that anymore.”

Each dance consists of several “calls.”  A “caller” sings or shouts the instructions to the dance – each dance different from the next. 

“We don’t know what he’s going to call until he says it,” Pat explains.  “We just follow what he says.”  The dancing sounds very easy, once you’ve learned the calls; however, there are over 4,000 calls to learn.

Sixty squares of eight dancers, four couples, entered the competition on Monday.  They were split into three divisions: Division 1 was for groups under 17 years old; Division 2 for groups between the ages of 15 and 25; and Division 3 was for any age.  Squares were judged individually and could be awarded a blue, red or white ribbon depending on how well they knew the calls.

The square-dance had a brief intermission when seven squares did a demonstration for the crowd.  The caller tested the squares’ ability by calling a few of the more difficult steps.  Jim and Pat Carson were part of the demonstrators. 

“This is good for your health and good for your mind,” says Jim, noting that knowing the calls tests your memory.  Pat agrees that it is good exercise, “this is more fun than just walking.”

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 285 commercial exhibitors.  The show runs Jan. 9-16 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg. Admission is free and parking is $10. Visit for details.


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