A Successful 2015 SASDS State Convention

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This year the 40th South Australian Square Dance Society Inc State Convention was held on the 28th, 29th, & 30th August, in the Soldiers Memorial Hall in the country town of Nuriootpa about 80 kilometres north of the Adelaide CBD.

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The Venue

The organising committee decided to call the event “Barossa Escape” because Nuriootpa is in the heart of the Barossa Valley wine district. Also “Nuriootpa”, is an aboriginal name for “meeting place”, a great place for square dancers to meet and celebrate this milestone event. The town is also strategically located North of Tanunda and South of Angaston, two other beautiful Barossa towns and is an easy one hour drive from Adelaide, along the new Northern Expressway.

And meet we did! Wow what a response! What a turnout! The first night saw 10 squares up on the floor with more than 3 squares sitting out. We also had callers and cuers galore, everyone who attended gave positive feedback, they all had a wow of a time.

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Jan Woodget, life member of SASDS gave the opening address

The majority of dancers became ensconced in the Barossa Tourist Park, about 1 kilometre from the hall, within easy walking distance for those who like a bit of extra exercise. Many dancers had dragged their caravans up to “Noori” (as the locals call the place), many more stayed in the on site cabins. The park was almost full to capacity, mostly square dancers, quite unusual for this time of year. And the weather reminded us what time of year this was, on Friday and Saturday, whilst the days were sunny with the occasional shower, the temperature was below normal, cool days and cold nights (down to freezing). Importantly, unlike one National Convention where everyone froze, our hall had great air-conditioning. It was lovely and warm inside. In fact when I opened up the hall for the dance, conditions in the canteen facility were tropical, Alan had previously started the air-conditioning to warm the place up and had set the canteen temperature to 28 C. It was a bit of a shock walking in via the back door, 5 C outside and 28 C inside.

The heritage hall had exceptionally good acoustics, one of the best sprung Jarrah dance floors we have seen, and boasted beautiful pressed metal ceilings an imposing elevated stage and magnificent seating in an upper balcony. The callers and cuers were spoilt for choice; having two back of stage dressing rooms at their disposal, each with a toilet and hand basin. The fully equipped spacious canteen was magnificent, the full width of the hall beneath the stage with tables and seating for dancers and callers to relax, have refreshments and a chat. The place was spotlessly clean (prior to the grubby mob who descended there) maintained in a pristine condition.

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Richard Muir our feature caller

Our Western Australia feature caller Richard Muir was, supported by a bevy of callers and cuers from other states and SA. We were treated to excellent calls and cues from: Andrea Braun, Anne Tulloch, Carol Simondson, Pat Saunders, Shirley Bates, Thelma McCue, Graham Elliot, Howard Cockburn, Ian Rutter, Jaden Frigo, Jeff Seidel, Les Tulloch, Mike Davey, Peter Humphries and Peter Scott. Including Richard, we had 16 callers and cuers attend the two day event.

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All the convention callers and cuers

On the Friday night, around 100 callers cuers and dancers met at the Vines Inn for a happy hour, followed by an excellent ala carte meal. This was a very successful event, evcallers eryone had an opportunity to meet up before the dance, relax have a good old chin wag, followed by a nice meal glass of wine and a short stroll up the high street to the dance venue. Further, so that dancers did not have to rush home to change into their dancing togs, they had the option to come in casual attire straight after their meal. This worked well, the atmosphere at the dance was convivial, no pressure, no stress. Of course, those who wished came along in traditional attire, but they were in the minority.

The Friday night dance “Essentially mainstream” started with four round brackets each with two dances, followed by 8 mainstream brackets each with three tips (two singing and one hoedown), a total of 8 round dances and 24 mainstream tips. We had 10 squares on the floor with about 3 squares sitting out, we estimated attendance at around 110. The Round Dance session prior to the mainstream was also an improvement on previous dances we have attended with 12 couples on the floor.

The Saturday afternoon, round and plus dances were also well attended. Rounds had 7 brackets with a total of 24 dances, Plus had, 5 brackets: a total of 15 tips, A level had 2 brackets: a total of 6 tips. We had 9 – 10 couples on the floor for rounds, 6 squares for plus, and two squares dancing at A level.

The Saturday evening dance was a great success, 2 round brackets, each with two dances, 8 mainstream brackets each with 3 tips (24 tips in all) and one plus bracket again with 3 tips. Attendance was a slight improvement on Friday. We had 13 couples for round dancing, 11 squares up for mainstream, with 2 – 3 squares sitting out, and again 6 squares for the plus bracket. We estimate attendance for the night exceeded 120.

When designing the dance program, Jan Woodget and Jeff Seidel were cognisant of the criticisms levied by many dancers that SASDS Conventions did not adequately cater for mainstream and that too many square dancers had to sit out whilst too few round dancers were on the floor. Their excellent program addressed a good balance of all dancers needs. If dancers attended the full 3 day program, they had on offer 36 round dances, 48 mainstream tips, 18 plus tips and 6 advanced tips. Well done Jan and Jeff.

It was great to see the 3 amigos from Victoria: Peter Humphries, Mike Davies and Howard Cockburn, all on stage together for one Saturday night bracket. Whilst it’s been a few years since they have performed as a trio, they slipped into Bobby Darin’s Dream Lover as though they had rehearsed the tip earlier that day. Their banter and jokes were well received, they bounced off each other with style and their bracket brought back happy memories of past National Conventions.

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The 3 amigo’s – great calling

Naturally, towards the end of each evening, the number of dancers on the floor diminished (we are all getting old). Mind you it seems the men could not keep up with the demands of the fairer sex, we had one square of lady dancers for the 3 amigos. Even though dancers tended to have a rest as the night wore on, no one left the hall, they all stayed till the very end, there was loads of seating, and as mention previously, for those who wished, a relatively quiet place for a chat in the canteen.

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An all ladies square dancing to the 3 amigos

The Saturday night dancing ended with a lovely supper: “A Taste of the Barossa”, which showcased local produce. The Barossa Valley was named in 1837, by South Australia’s first Surveyor general Colonel William Light, after “Barrosa” in Spain. This area was first settled in 1842 by English and German settlers, there were many Lutheran migrants, who effected a pronounced German influence on the areas produce, hence, “the taste” of food essentially comprised local smoked meats, cheeses and wine. The finger food and drinks rounded of a fabulous night, the majority of dancers stayed back chatting until just about everything on offer had been consumed. We managed to slip away at around 11.30 PM. Some stalwarts went back to their accommodation for “after parties”.

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The convention committee preparing supper

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Andrea’s James helped as well

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A taste of the barossa went down a treat!

How impractical are the multi-layered petticoat dresses introduced in the 1970’s to attract younger dancers to square dancing. Many ladies had extreme difficulty negotiating the stairs down to the canteen area. They had to be carefully led down to the tea coffee, food and drink and the final supper, because they could not see the steps or their feet. Bring back the “Prairie”. These ladies also missed out on the great view and lovely seating on offer in the balcony overlooking the dance floor.

Whilst the dancing was a two day event, the callers continued on through Sunday. They were first treated to a cooked breakfast in the camp kitchen at the caravan park. Many dancers also came along, cooked their own food and interacted with the callers. More than 40 managed to rise before 9.00 AM. The sun shone, the morning warmed up and everyone was happy chin wagging.

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Sunday breakfast

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Nice warm sun outside the camp kitchen

Richard really tested Andrea’s son James by sitting as a passenger in one of the parks tricycles. Poor James had to really strain on the pedals to shift the great lump! Whilst our feature caller no doubt expected a chauffeured limousine, he was still prepared to Swan around the caravan park on the pedal powered trike. Shame on you Richard, exploitation of child labour!!

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Richard and chauffer James

After breakfast, the callers went back to the hall for a meeting / workshop, which I believe also went well.

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The callers/cuers meeting – no doubt plotting more devious calls

The committee certainly found their true vocation, as they and their helpers tip toed around the callers, moving chairs and tables, removing decorations, cleaning, washing up, mopping and sweeping floors etc. It was great that we found new homes for some of the decorations, the “4” went to Victoria for Jaden’s club “Australiana Dancers” 4th birthday and Anne Tulloch was given the two square dance symbols for one of her future occasions. Unfortunately no one could find a use for the “Big 0”.

And still the weekend had not finished, by 5.00 PM the three BBQ’s in the camp kitchen were full and soon we had a big mob waiting for their turn. It was a BYO event for those who remained, more than 50 turned out to finish off the weekend. An amazing turnout, because many of the breakfast mob had departed earlier in the day.

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Sunday night’s BBQ in the camp kitchen

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Nice warm fire outside the camp kitchen

The State Convention Committee certainly worked hard to make this year’s milestone occasion a memorable event and should be proud that they achieved this objective. All who attended will fondly remember this enjoyable occasion for a long time hence. as caller Mike Davies commented the venue was a “great find”.

We committee members received so many accolades from so many dancers “the best SASDS State Convention ever”, “a great mini National Convention”. All the callers we spoke to said they had experienced a great time and were impressed by our hospitality; the breakfast certainly placed those leaving in a satisfied frame of mind. The 6.30 AM start necessary to set up and get stuff cooked in time was, after the late Saturday night, well worth the effort. An especial thankyou must go to Helen Marchant (scrambled eggs and baked beans), Jeff Bottroff who helped me cook bacon, and sausages, and all those who cooked toast. Also our thanks go out to caller Mike Davey of Jaybee Square Wheelers, Victoria and Chris from Acey Squares Naracourt, for pitching in and doing the breakfast dishes.

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Thankyou Mike and Chris

A further thankyou to the dancers who helped the committee clean up the hall after the Sunday morning-breakfast marathon. Merv, Kay & Ken, worked so hard, washing up, packing away, stacking chairs, removing decorations, moving furniture and sweeping floors. It’s wonderful that these lovely people in our square dance fraternity are willing to pitch in and help.

Monday morning heralded a mild frost, but the sun shone all day. It was time to go home; dancers shook hands, said their farewells, hugged one another, vacated their cabins or pulled their caravans out of the park. Only two couples (the convention committee) stayed on to unwind, savouring the peace and quiet of a nice warm sunny day, a pleasant meal in the sunlit Bistro at the Vines Inn, followed by a nice coffee in the sunny courtyard adjacent to Penfold’s Winery, where a purveyor of coffee’s and tea’s can be found.

When organizing the event, some naysayers were of the opinion that the event would fail because dancers would not be prepared to travel outside the city limits. They were wrong! We had an exceptional response especially from Victoria where callers and dancers are looking for something new. We had dancers from far afield in South Australia: the Riverland, Naracoorte and Mount Gambia, we had tremendous support from Victoria and some dancers even came over from Western Australia (a long trip but they said it was worth it). We must remember that square dancing originated in small county towns and villages in the northern hemisphere, so this was really a “back to the roots” event. Further, the cost of hiring comparable venues in country towns is substantially cheaper than in metropolitan areas (in this case 10% of city hire charges) and with limitless parking. Importantly, country communities are usually prepared to go the extra distance to help visitors. Thank you “The Vines Inn” for providing complimentary meal vouchers for our caller and the raffle.

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The State Convention Committee, from let to right:

Jeff Seidel: Wild Frontier & Kanella Squares.

Pat Markwick: Kanella Squares, Jan Woodget: life member SASDS

Jeff & Sue Bottroff,  Roger & Helen Marchant: Wild Frontier

Anne & Alan Tuckfield: Adelaide Outlaws / Wild Frontier

Could this be a precursor to a replacement event for Des’s beloved “Speewa Easter Hoedown”? I received a plea from one Victorian dancer, “is there another venue in South Australia [equal to Nuriootpa] closer to the Victorian border”? If so many more Victorians will attend because many are looking for different places to go.

So…….let’s do another country town dance!

BUT NOT NEXT YEAR the convention committee needs time to recover!!!


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