By Georgine Paris - St Louis, MO
From Thursday through Sunday, July 10-13, 1997, over 200 from around the Midwest and beyond gathered in Sister Bay, WI, which is in Door County, for the 18th Annual Door County Folk Festival. The co-directors are Gerhard Bernhard of Sister Bay and Paul Collins of Chicago. This year the weather was beautiful enticing us outdoors on Saturday for a fish boil in the park, after which we danced out onto the pier accompanied by live fiddle, accordion and drum music. This attracted curious pedestrians to venture from he main street to watch us. Each morning Paul Collins led squares, rounds and contras. For late morning essions and afternoon session one could chose from beginning or intermediate/advanced dance workshops or swing. Some of the dances taught: Raghupati, Pinjare Ke Panchii, Sade Tan (India), B'vanim, Ahava Hadassa and Ya Abud, Amen (Israel), Arkan (Ukraine), Papuri (Armenia), Topansko, Gypsy Krsteno, Idam, Ne Idam (Macedonia), Bielolitza Kruglolitza, Lebedushka (Russia), Hora de la Voitinel, Alunelul de Brau, Batucele Romania), Glavinishko Chetvorno Horo, Nestinarsko Horo (Bulgaria), Kleftes, Zonaradikos (Greece), Devollice (Albania) and swing dancing. Among the teachers were Penny Brichta, Dan and Mary Garvin, Cindy Geiger, Larry Hoey, Forrest Johnson, Michael Kuharski, and Paul Collins. Children's activities, under the direction of Dick and Miriam Miller, were held during some of the workshops. The much-traveled Joan Amsterdam brought her traveling shop of international items of clothes, music, and knick-knacks for sale. A Silent Auction of folk/ethnic related items was held as well.
Each moment of the day there was something to chose from related to folk music and dance. During lunchtime, one could just sit by the shore and renew or make acquaintances, or venture to one of the local cafes. Another lunchtime option was a leader discussion led by Dan and Paul on "Balancing Current vs. on-Current Material in a Group's Repertoire" and "Defining a Group's Standard Repertoire". This evolved into a computer session where leaders could anonymously type and read responses to a group questionnaire. One could bring a blanket and lunch to a massage therapy workshop with Mercedes Dzindzeleta who demonstrated massage therapy for dancers suffering from too much activity. For those traveling with instruments, music jam sessions led by Jim Kiehne were held throughout the weekend.
For the evening party on Friday, Rakia, a band from Minneapolis, provided music and singing. Saturday night was open mike night coordinated by Warren Kubitschek with entertainment from groups and individuals displaying wonderful musical talent. It was neat to be with so many people and watch the some show off their stuff as well as see the styles of dancers and the variation in dance steps. Both parties continued past midnight with tapes and record requests till unknown hours of the morning. Saturday night included a demonstration of a Hawaiian dance by Grace Bernhard. We joined her and Gerhard to celebrate their 6-month anniversary with a dance and cake. Paul Collins emotionally shared about the death of his mother in April. She coaxed him into folk dancing and he's forever grateful for it. After midnight, the 5th Annual Folk Dance Olympics began. This year, glow-in-the-dark items were featured, as well as clowns and some rousing vigorous dance routines. The next morning I learned that about a dozen or so dancers stayed up all night (an annual attempt) and went to breakfast at the famous Al Johnson's restaurant - the one with goats on its sod roof.
As some present weren't too keen on spending every waking hour dancing - believe it or not - some took off on an island cruise, played Frisbee, swam, watched the sunset, gazed at the boats and skidoos passing in the harbor, browsed in the local shops or just chatted.
Sunday night, for those still in town and able to move, there was a Survivor's Dance Party.
So if this sounds like some place you'd like to come to dance, meet others and enjoy the beautiful scenery, keep open the second weekend in July. The drive to Sister Bay is beautiful no matter which direction you come from. You might even hit the cherry picking season!
Work scholarships are available if money is a concern and/or you'd like to help behind the scenes. For information on next year's festival, contact Paul Collins at , or Gerhard Bernhard at . They'd love to hear from you. Or contact me, one of the first-timers who helped out.