Meadville Tribune

Local News

January 4, 2013

Local square dancers look for Farm Show three-peat

SAEGERTOWN — Wild Country Dancers square dance team hopes to dance its way to a blue ribbon for the third year in a row at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Since September, 20 area youngsters, ranging from ages 7 to 19, have been practicing square dancing at Wild Country Dance Hall in Saegertown — gearing up for Monday night’s competition at the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. This is the third year that this group will compete at the Farm Show, having earned blue ribbons in both 2011 and 2012.

There were a lot of smiles on the competitors’ faces as they went through their paces in the final local rehearsal Sunday night.

“The kids just have a ball doing it,” said Brenda Schmidt who directs the team with Don Yosten.

Those on the team say they get pure enjoyment from participating.

“It’s being with friends,” said Becca Rendulic, 17, of Conneaut Lake, who has been on the team for two years. “You’re going to the Farm Show, being with friends and having fun.”

Brooke Caldwell, 14, a second-year member from Cambridge Springs, and Josh Schmidt, 11, a third-year member from Conneautville, agree.

“I’m having fun with my group,” Caldwell said. “We all love to laugh — that’s what makes it all fun.”

“It’s the enjoyment,” added Josh Schmidt, a cousin of Brenda.

There also are personal benefits from learning square dancing, according to Caldwell. “We make friends that we will have for life,” she said. “We learn how to work hard to earn what we want and we learn traditions to pass on.”

“You get (the benefit of) friendship and self-confidence,” Josh Schmidt added.

Brenda Schmidt said she loves to see the kids develop skills that carry over into life.

“They have to talk to each other,” she said. “They develop teamwork.”

The team got its start in 2010 when a few of the older members attended a 4-H event where a modern square dancing demonstration was given.

The kids thought it would be a fun thing for them to do while they were at Farm Show exhibiting their animals as part of 4-H, so they contacted Brenda Schmidt to be their leader since she is a square dance teacher. But Brenda Schmidt only was familiar with traditional square dancing, so she turned to Don Yosten, a professional caller from Erie County, for assistance.

“Without Don, I don’t know what we would do,” Brenda Schmidt said. “He really helps the kids. He’s our glue.”

Yosten, who has been a square dance caller for adults for 28 years, said it’s refreshing to work with kids.

“They just learn so fast,” he said of his young charges. “A lot of these kids are farm kids, so they’re used to work. They just take to it like ducks to water. It’s rewarding to see their faces light up when they get it.”

The dancers have to know about 60 calls, or square dance moves, that may be called in a dance. The various moves are announced by the caller during each song.

At the state competition, the Danish system of judging is used, Schmidt said. The Danish system lets every team start with a perfect score, and points are deducted for each mistake that is observed by the three judges. Blue ribbons are given for superior performance, red ribbons for excellent performance, and white ribbons for a good performance, Schmidt said.

The Wild Country Dancers Square Dance Team (1 and 2) both will compete in Division C — the open age group, as team members are from 7 to 19 years of age, Schmidt said. The Pennsylvania Farm Show has three age divisions: Division A is for those who are under age 17; Division B is for those 15 to 25 years old; and Division C is any age.

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