Door County Folk Festival
Get Your Foot In The Door!
Sister Bay, Ephraim & Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin
Tel: (847)-846-8139, (773)-634-9381 -

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DCFF Scholarship Work Leaves Room to Play - 2001
by Rebecca Floyd - Brigham Young University - Provo, UT

July 5-8 2001 Sister Bay hosted the 22nd Annual Door County Folk Festival.  It was a gathering place for enthusiastic folk dancers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa Canada and other places.  The Village Halls of Ephraim and Sister Bay resounded with the vibrant sounds and rhythms from all over the world causing the dancers to move in time and passers by to stop and appreciate the rich music and dance heritage available. 

The weekend opened as volunteers and staff showed up Thursday morning to prepare the hall for the workshops and parties to come.  Thanks to the festival coordinators the halls were ready to entertain guests in record breaking time.  The festival officially began at Sister Bay Hall Thursday night with dance requests and a mini workshop.  Participants learned Swedish, Romanian, Gaelic and Bulgarian dances.  The music went on until 2:30 in the morning while others headed back to their tents or motels to prepare for the next day's workshops.  There is something to do every minute of the waking day, and try as I might I just couldn't fit it all in.  (Although I had fun attempting to.) 

Friday and Saturday morning the early birds could catch either a Sumatran Dance workshop taught by Anne von Bibra or dance squares and contras with live music provided by the Silvertones and caller Paul Collins.  The rest of the day was filled with workshops broken into levels from beginning to Intermediate/Advanced.  Teachers included Michael Kuharski, Forrest and Carol Johnson, Marge Sklar, Mary and Dan Garvin, Paul Wagner Paul Collins, Patti Cohen, Anne von Bibra, Kay Josten and Patti Cohen.  All of the teachers did an excellent job of breaking apart their dances and presenting them clearly for the dancers to learn.  Each workshop ran a review of the dances taught during that time at the end of the session to help internalize the dances.  Many of the dances taught during the workshops were also played at the evening folk parties to put new knowledge to immediate use. 

At noon on Friday and Saturday there were organized forums discussing various issues in presenting ethnic dance and in customizing music or using alternate music to energize dancers.  Dick and Miriam Miller organized children's activities and Mercedes Dzindzeleta held a dance relief workshop.  For those who wanted to pause from the folk dance scene, they could enjoy the beautiful view of Lake Michigan Lake, try the delicious food available at the local restaurants, or shop.  The village of Sister Bay was settled by Norwegian Immigrants, hence Norwegian food and trinkets are easy to find. 

In addition to the folk dances being taught there were also Swing dance, instrumental and singing workshops.  Terry and Cindy Gardner headed the Swing workshops teaching east coast styles at the workshops and a mini workshop on Lindy-hop at the swing party.  They are a riot to learn from and an entertaining pair.  Their workshops taught some fun moves and emphasized working well with your partner.  There was a Swing party held on Saturday night at the Ephraim Village Hall with fantastic music, great people and plenty of room to shake a leg. 

The instrumental and singing workshops received wonderful reviews from their attendants.  The party on Saturday night showcased their work as we danced to the instrumentalist's tunes and witnessed the obvious popularity of the singing workshop.  The dance teachers wondered where many of their dancers had gone during the afternoon sessions and realized as the great number of singers performed where they had been. 

The material from Friday's dance workshops was repeated on Saturday so one could either reinforce what they had learned the day before or grab as many different dances as they could during the weekend.  The dances are taught according to skill level and there are great dances for participants of all levels to enjoy. Whether one is just "Getting Their Foot in the Door" or has been dancing for more years than I have been alive there are rhythms to enjoy and great people to learn dance sequences with. 

One of the greatest parts of the festival is the opportunity to take home a syllabus and music for the dances taught during the weekend.  Also, many teachers allow for the dances to be video taped, adding another resource for those dancers who want to take their knowledge back to their home groups. 

Highlights of the weekend included celebrating Michael Kuharski's 50th birthday.  We even did a Hungarian Birthday dance to add to the fun.  Saturday evening was the traditional Door County Fish Boil.  It was truly a sight to see as the flames reached fifteen feet into the air when the fish had been boiled to perfection.  Of course, seeing it for the first time my immediate thought as the kettle boiled over and the flames soared was: "Is it supposed to do that?"   When I tasted the food though, it became very clear that Daryl Larson and his crew definitely knew what they were doing. 

After dinner, live music and dancing in the park was the main event: Michael and Pine Wilson played accordions and Patti and Dan played drums.  We danced a Beautiful Lesnoto Oro along the pier as the glowing sun dipped into the water.  Dancing and music continued outside as we enjoyed the beautiful weather; and despite rumor that the mosquito is Wisconsin's state bird, the area was free of the little pests. 

The dance then moved into the hall where live music provided by the Izvor Orchestra played late into the night.  At around one o'clock the annual Larry Hoey Memorial Folk Dance Olympics were held.  We enjoyed performances by masked dancers, a hula, belly dance, Canadian dances done to keep warm and other great forms of entertainment.  After the Olympics, the band picked up again until they finally packed up with many dancers still going strong to recorded music when we finally had to shut down for the night. 

Sunday offered reviews of the workshops, a Sunset Dinner Cruise with Live Swing music, and a Survivors' group dinner and dance party to close out a tremendous weekend.  Monday the staff cleared out the halls and carefully took down the equipment and decorations until the next exciting festival. 

This was my first year in attendance and was fortunate enough to work on the scholarship staff.  The festival contributes much of its success to the scholarship staff workers who keep things running smoothly for all the participants.  Some of the staff responsibilities included setting up and taking down the halls with sound equipment and decorations, light cleaning of the building, registering participants, collecting class and party fees at the beginning of each session, and helping serve food at the fish boil.  The leaders are well organized, fun to work with and do a terrific job at making events run smoothly not only for the festival participants but the staff members as well.  All tasks and times associated with them were explained clearly. 

The staff leaders corresponded with each scholarship worker to find time for them to work so that they could have free time to attend their most desired events.  I found that attending the festival as a member of the staff was the greatest way to make many new friends as we worked together stringing lights or hosting the workshops and parties.  Before coming to the festival I was a little nervous about not knowing anyone I would be working with, and not sure if any of my folk dancing friends from Madison would be there; but before dancing had begun I had many new friendships and fun memories.  Outside of hosting at the workshops and parties I shared meals and many dances with fellow staff workers.  Working for the festival provides an unforgettable chance to learn from the workshops and meet many energetic people. I highly recommend taking advantage of helping great people like Warren Kubitschek, Susan Mermelstein, Paul Nagl and many others. 

The Door County Folk Festival has been the highlight of my summer and is well worth any drive it takes to get there.  The memories created are priceless and the friendships are treasures.  Once you have gone you will find it nearly impossible to keep away! 

Rebecca Floyd
Brigham Young University

Provo, UT