The curtain came down on February 12, 2018 on the perennial favorite square dance festival in Yuma, Arizona. After 68 continuous years of presenting a festival for square dancers from all over the Southwest as well as Canada, the organization that put on the festival (YSRDA) felt that they could no longer carry the work load of putting it all together.
The SaddleBrooke Squares are going to miss this yearly highlight of our busy schedule of dance venues. The Squares Leader and Caller, Larry Kraber, started the club going over to Yuma for the festival over 20 years ago. Every year the trip to Yuma was the introduction of Larry’s students to the fun and excitement where they could put together and use what they had learned over the previous 15 weeks of lessons.
The festival was more than just a dance. It was many things to many people. It was a place to shop for dance clothes and accessories. It was an opportunity to dance to a special variety of square dance callers. It was where friends made over the years at various festivals could once again get together and reminisce about all the things going on in their lives. But best of all it was three days of square and round dancing with an occasional break to grab a lunch or dinner at one of the fine restaurants found in Yuma.
The festival was sponsored by the Yuma Round and Square Dance Association. The dance hall could be divided into four different halls. To the east Advanced square dancers had their space, to the west those new to the dance could practice their Mainstream calls and in the main hall the Plus dancers had their workshops and a full itinerary of Mainstream and Plus calls. Round dancers had the floor while the square dancers would catch their breath and rest their legs.
This year there were over 40 squares of square dancers, eight in a square meant 320 folks all doing the do-c-do, swinging their partner and promenading the hall. The round dancers numbered over 100. Some round dancers hardly got a chance to rest as they would also square dance. The SaddleBrooke Squares received special recognition for being the largest group present. We really stood out with our club colors and teal shirts. The second largest contingency was from Canada. A whole country beat out by our own community. Okay, they did come from further away but most of them were in Yuma for the winter. We had four callers, one from Denmark, another from Canada, and two from the United States. At times they would sing and call together with the calls going from one to another. That kept our ears busy catching the change in voices. This does show the international aspect of square dancing.
Back home after three days, with a smile on our faces except for the fact that the Yuma Festival is fading off into the Arizona sunset.