By Keith Gushard
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.
Team members and competition
The Pennsylvania Farm Show square dance competition is Monday in Harrisburg. The square dance parade begins at 6:30 p.m. with competition at 7 p.m. with approximately 60 sets of dancers competing. It will be broadcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network — Channel 31 on the Armstrong cable system and Channel 22 on the Coaxial cable system.
The Wild Country Dancers square dance team has two sets of dancers in competition.
Set 51: Dalton Marsteller, Becca Rendulic, Kenny Shugerts, Emily Merritt, Josh Schmidt, Sarah Caldwell, Justin Schmidt, Alexandra Merritt, Nolan Schmidt and Brooke Caldwell. The ladies of Set 51 will continue to wear the Western-themed skirts made of red flannel atop crinolines and the gents will wear T-shirts emblazoned with the International Harvester logo.
Set 52: Gary Lee Shidemantle, Alysia Walczak, Kameron Willis, Courtney Hess, Nathan Walczak, Aubrey Spellman, Haley Jo Hess, Elizabeth Foust, Kaitlyn Wills and Kierstin Kiel. Set 52 will be outfitted in John Deere themed skirts and shirts.
Members who have been on the team since 2010: Marsteller, Emily Merritt, Josh Schmidt, Justin Schmidt, Alexandra Merritt, Shidemantle, Kameron Willis, Courtney Hess, Haley Jo Hess and Katilyn Willis.
There are five couples in each of the sets with only four couples competing at a time for each of the five songs. As such, each couple sits out for one song.
The songs “634-5789” and “The Square Dance Is On” will be the warm-up dances for the evening. The first two competition dances are “Live and Love Always” and “Fisherman’s Luck.” All of the dance teams will perform the first four songs. Division C’s final judged song will be “If You Wanna Find Love.”
Overview of the evening
The square dance parade begins Monday at 6:30 p.m. During this time, dancers will line up according to their sets and will walk around the outside of the entire arena. Once they have completed one lap, they will then enter their assigned square.
Once everyone is in position, the caller will take the microphone and perform the first of the warm-up songs. All dancers will be on the floor for the first four songs. After the fourth song, the dancers will retire to the side of the arena while the judges compile their scores. During this intermission, several square dance clubs will provide entertainment by performing a few square dances and round dances, as well.
Those teams in Division A that have earned at least a red ribbon will be called to the floor to perform their final song. Once they have completed their dance, they will leave the floor and another exhibition dance (either square or round) will be performed. The same scenario will occur for both Division B and Division C.
Did you know?
More than three dozen Crawford County residents are expected to compete in various events at the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show that begins Saturday and runs through Jan. 12 in Harrisburg.
In addition to the 20 members of the Wild Country Dancers, there are 22 4-H participants from Crawford County, according to the Crawford County Extension Office, which coordinates the local 4-H program. Some members of the dance team are 4-H members exhibiting animals while others are not members of 4-H.
Also, about 10 to 20 area farmers are expected to participate in the Pennsylvania Farm Show, according to the Crawford County Extension Office.