If the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “square dance” is dresses, the second thing should be RVs.
During the 61st National Square Dance Convention, which opened Wednesday and runs through Saturday, more than 200 RVs are parked at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.
Ray and Charlene Weist were in charge of getting everyone into the right spot when attendees started showing up Wednesday around noon.
“We are waiting for at least 105 today,” said Charlene Weist who, armed with a clipboard, kept track of the RVs and campers pulling in. Shuttle buses run from 8 a.m. to midnight to take the square dancers downtown to the Spokane Convention Center from the fairgrounds.
“We realized that with Hoopfest here, it would be pretty hard to find a place to park,” Ray Weist said.
Square dance clubs across the country publish a travel guide listing dances in every state.
“A lot of people get the travel book and then they plan their trips after that, going from place to place and dancing every night,” Ray Weist said.
David and Peggy Ciccone took their sweet time getting here from Pittsburg, Calif.
“We didn’t drive more than four or five hours a day,” David Ciccone said. The trip took them to Oregon’s Crater Lake and through the Columbia Gorge.
The Ciccones volunteered for the National Square Dance Convention when it was in Riverside, Calif., in 2010, and David Ciccone said one of the best things about the conventions is catching up with old friends.
“It’s like old home week. Everywhere you go there is someone you know,” said David Ciccone, adding that he’s danced with people from all over the world, some of whom didn’t speak any English. “But that doesn’t matter. The calls are all the same no matter where in the world you are, so everyone can follow them.”
David Ciccone said he really got into square dancing after his divorce.
“I just kind of sat around and hung my head,” David Ciccone said. Then he joined a local square dance club, and that’s where he met and made friends with the woman who became his second wife.
“It’s just a great thing to do,” he said.
Ray Weist got started on square dancing because a neighbor, George Reathaford, wouldn’t stop bugging him about it.
“I figured I’d go once, just to shut him up,” Weist said. That was in 1985.
Reathaford cracks up hearing that line.
“We knew we just had to get him to go once,” said Reathaford, who began dancing with his wife, Alice Reathaford, in 1980. The Reathafords were part of the group of square dancers who set a world record for the most dancers following one caller, when the National Square Dance Convention was in Seattle in 1981.
Alice Reathaford died in 1983, but George Reathaford kept dancing.
“You don’t have to have a partner when you go,” George Reathaford said. “I’ve always had plenty of dance partners.”