Harrisburg - With an excited yell from the floor, 48 squares filled with dancers began their synchronized motions in a sea of swirling skirts and clasped hands.
More than 500 dancers gathered for the Square Dance Contest and Exhibition on Monday, Jan. 10, at the 2011 PA Farm Show in a stunning variety of patterns and colors.
This contest is not traditional for square dancers, as competitions are rare in this activity. Judges Jerry Goshorn of Lewisberry, York County; Dave Kriter of Lititz, Lancaster County; and Tom Mahoney of Oil City, Venango County, seated themselves high in the stadium to observe the competition.
During intermission, a number of experienced square dancing teams came out to perform some of the more complex steps for the crowd.
Sarah Wilson of New Castle, Lawrence County, enjoyed her third year participating in the competition. She initially became involved in square dancing through the formation of a team within her FFA chapter, and continues to hone her skills at halls where people "just show up" to dance in squares.
Wilson said, "Square dancing is really fun and energetic, and it is great to work as a team."
Wilson explained that the actual competition occurs over a number of songs. The first song or two is a warm-up set that helps dancers prepare for the competition. During the competitive songs, a caller can choose from more than 4,000 different calls that signify a different set of motions and vary in difficulty.
Callers for the event were Dan and Linda Prosser of Dillsburg, York County, Fred Strang of Somerset, Somerset County, and Tom Miller of Cambria County.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural event in the nation, featuring nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 290 commercial exhibitors. The show runs Jan. 8-15 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg. Admission is free and parking is $10.
For more information, visit www.farmshow.state.pa.us.
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For photos of the event, click here.