Keystone hosts first state square dance festival |

Keystone hosts first state square dance festival

Timberline Toppers hails itself as the highest square dance club in the world, and this weekend, it’s calling all square dancers statewide to join in the high elevation fun.

For the first time in its 55-year history, the Colorado State Square Dance Festival takes place in Summit County, as the Keystone Conference Center hosts about 600 dancers, said festival chairperson Dan Pantano. Of the 120 members Timberline Toppers boasts, about 60 to 80 will attend, said former president Chuck Boyd.

The festival began Thursday night, with callers from Montana, Tennessee and Iowa. The weekend gives people a chance to visit vendors selling Western clothing because Colorado doesn’t have any stores that cater to square dance. It also allows them to enjoy a variety of dances, from round and line dancing to clogging and Western swing. Workshops cover new, more difficult steps to help people transition to other forms.

The state conference rotates among four councils throughout Colorado. This time, Denver Council (to which Timberline Toppers belongs) chose, and members wanted somewhere “different.”

“We were tired of hot, dusty plains,” Pantano said, explaining that county fairgrounds usually house the event.

Though there has been some concern about the effect of the high elevation, most people haven’t made a fuss, and Boyd says he leads snowshoe tours in the High Country, with people in their 60s and 70s from sea level, and has never had a problem.

He believes the festival “will pump a lot of money into the county.”

Though in general, Pantano said square dance is on the decline, he sees the recession as a perfect opportunity “to bolster ranks,” due to its low cost.

“It’s one of the cheapest entertainments in the county,” Boyd said.

The Toppers have done a great job recruiting new members, Pantano said, pointing to how it has doubled its membership two years in a row. The Toppers usually graduate about 40 people during regular classes, which start in January. The square dance community is also in a bit of a do-se-do about how to attract members younger than 40.

“People who are leading (square dancing) are kind of out of touch, so we’re trying to get younger people to take a lead,” Pantano said.

The draw of the dance lies in its activity – both physical and mental – as well as the social aspect.

“It also has the idea of being a wholesome activity,” Pantano said. “It’s kind of corny, but true.”

Dancers are also allowing informal gatherings, where participants don’t have to wear Western attire.

“We’re trying to loosen up because people think we’re kind of stodgy,” Pantano said, laughing.

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