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Their last dance

Jolly Mixers Square Dance Club has one final turn on the dance floor

December 13, 2012
By Karin Elton , Marshall Independent

GHENT - There were three squares of square dancers once again Tuesday at St. Eloi School in Ghent.

But it will be the last Tuesday night dance for The Jolly Mixers Square Dance Club. The club had a "Going Away Party" dance because of the increasingly low turnout of dancers.

"It can't be very fun for the caller to just call for one square," said Fern Allison of Brookings, S.D., who came to support some friends of hers who dance in Ghent and also in Brookings.

Article Photos

Photo by Karin Elton
Area square dancers do the right hand star step during the Jolly Mixers’ farewell dance Tuesday night in Ghent.

A square, which is made up of four couples, doesn't fill a dance floor. Cal Brown from Watertown, S.D., called for the dancers Tuesday, many of whom were from other dance clubs around the region who came to support a club at its last meeting.

In recent years, old age has taken its toll on the Jolly Mixers dancers and the dance club.

"Members gradually didn't show up," said Dianne Bunjer of Ivanhoe.

Bunjer added that the club used to meet twice a month, and then it was down to once a month.

The club is going the way of dance clubs such as the Slicks and Chicks in Russell and the Currie Mixers, which had to stop meeting because of declining membership.

"You'd think a town the size of Marshall could sustain a square dance club," said Wanda Ochocki of Marshall.

The nearest club now will be Pipestone, she said. She and her husband, Jim, will now go to dances in Brookings, Dawson, Morgan and Pipestone, as well as any other city they happen to travel to.

Tony and Gerlinde Doom of Marshall have been dancing since 1991 with the Jolly Mixers and have traveled throughout the United States and Germany. They have danced with clubs in South Carolina, Arkansas and Georgia, as well as Okoboji, Iowa. They receive pins from each club where they dance, which Tony has affixed to his shirt pocket.

"Square dancing started in America and it was spread overseas by soldiers," he said. "Wherever you go, it is called in English."

He and Gerlinde danced at a club in Germany and the steps were called in English.

Doom said square dancing is good exercise.

"The American Heart Association said an evening of square dancing is like power walking five miles," he said.

In addition to being part of a healthy lifestyle, Doom said square dancing offers instant rapport with strangers who also square dance.

"Wherever we travel, we have something in common," he said. "There is a lot of camaraderie and fellowship."

There was plenty of camaraderie and fellowship at Tuesday night's dance. During a break in dancing, Jim Ochocki read from a list of names of people who had birthdays and anniversaries in December.

George Noyes of Marshall was one of the birthday boys. He stood in the middle of the dance floor while the dancers encircled him and sang the "Happy Birthday" song.

He turned 89 the following day. He and his wife, Dolores, quit the club last year because of health issues but came to the going-away party to see fellow dancers.

"We've been coming a long time," Noyes said. "I've been dancing since I was 15 - the polka, the schottische - and square dancing quite a few years."

His dancing days are over, but Noyes is grateful for one thing - "I'm very fortunate my wife and I are still together."

Vernon Klaassen of Tracy and his late wife, Gail, had been members of the Jolly Mixers since 1960 but started dancing long before. At 87, he still dances.

Wanda Ochocki said Klaassen's name will be added to the United Square Dancers Association's national list of active dancers older than 85.



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