the hoedown and why you need to host one in your neighborhood



hoedown from Michelle Lehnardt on Vimeo.

I’d like to bear my testimony of square dancing, circle dancing, line dancing, the Virginia Reel.

Or maybe I’ll just quote Ed Gilmore’s 1949 Square Dance Caller Handbook, “No other form of recreation presents an opportunity for participation to so large a number of our people as square dancing. There is no spirit of competition or exhibitionism in square dancing. Eight people get together and each one is striving for perfect cooperation with the other seven to complete a pattern in time with the instinctive rhythm of the music. No one is out to win anything or out do the other fellow.”

After our hoedown at pioneer trek I talked to several teenagers who asked, “Why don’t we do this more often?” It’s the perfect venue for teenagers (and adults) to get to know each other, to hold hands without embarrassment, swing round and round, to dance wholeheartedly without worrying about looking silly. Western dancing takes all the fear out of asking a partner because the caller puts everyone in a big circle and helps them join the fun. And if you’re not excited about the person you’re dancing with right now just wait 20 seconds when the circle rotates. As Ed says, “Square dancing has a tendency to promote real fellowship and teaching patience, consideration, kindness, cooperation, tolerance, unselfishness, all of the qualities so important to an ideal personality.”

So I came home, called my friend Amy and said, “I want to have a party. In your yard.”

And I really, truly hope everyone has a friend like Amy somewhere, sometime in their life who not only says, “Yes!” when you plan parties at their house, but they also thank you over and over as if you did them a big favor, and then bring  you cookies to show their appreciation.

Next, I sat down to train myself to become a square dancing caller, because how hard could it be?

Hard. Really hard. Ed has a list of all the attributes needed in a good caller and I nodded my head as I read, “‘patient” “loves people” “believes in the recreational value of square dancing (I do! Oh I do!)” and then I came to: 5. He must have an infallible sense of rhythm. This should be instinctive.

I have my talents, I do. But rhythm? No. Musicality? None.

So I called the next Awesome Amy and begged her to be our caller.

It helps that both Amys are two of the most well loved women in our area– especially by all the teenagers. They trust teenagers, they believe in their goodness and they believe (as I do) we have a responsibility to love and encourage all the youth we meet.

The rest of the planning was simple: we sent out a Facebook invite to all ages, several kids tweeted and texted each other, and we agreed to meet at the Garffs a few hours before the party. Our refreshments consisted of cookies and ice water.

getting ready– Gabe and the boys setting up the speakers, the girls practicing “swing your partner”

From Ed: All of the older nations in the world have their national folk dance. It is as much a part of the culture of each nation as its art, literature, music or religion.The United States has not discovered its folk dance; we have been a nation of spectators. Every sport or recreational activity has been on a basis of competition or exhibition with the development of star athletes or entertainers and the elimination of the mediocre or average participants.

An ideally executed square dance is a perfect demonstration of democracy. Social, financial or intellectual standing and even sex is of little importance.Good fellowship and complete relaxation and release from the pressures of every day life are of all importance. Here is one golden opportunity for a man or woman to let down their hair, to whoop and holler, let off steam.

You’ll notice I have a lot more photos of Gabe and Mary and Erik, but I’m sure you’ll agree it’s much more acceptable to photograph them at a dance then to trail behind Hans and Xander.As the sun set, the dancing slowed and all the teenagers settled on the lawn to talk…..which led to one of the happiest circumstances of Gabe’s entire life. As the fifth boy, he’s always been relegated to the sidelines during fireworks. But on this night, the older boys were so busy/happy talking that Gabe and his friend Truman became the fireworks masters. They arranged the necessary buckets of water, set up the ‘safe zone’ and generously allowed little kids to light a few fuses.


We declared the evening an absolute success and decided to make it a Pioneer Day tradition.

  But really, maybe we need a fall hoedown too?

September 5, 2014
September 11, 2014



  1. Noémi

    September 8, 2014

    Michelle, I love it, gorgeous!!! 🙂

  2. Michelle

    September 9, 2014

    I seriously considered coming home from YW camp for this. Please remember us next time! What an awesome idea.

  3. Cath

    September 10, 2014

    Incredible Michelle! What a wonderful thing you’ve done. We want to come next time! And I hope you got a chance to dance too! 🙂 Love all the good you are about. xo

  4. Kayci

    September 11, 2014

    This looks amazing! You have the best ideas. I thought twice about coming to this when you advertised it but it didn’t work out.
    I don’t dance but I really want to try this. I might have to put one together in my neck of the woods. Thank you for sharing your great ideas.

  5. Phoebe (Romney) Cook

    September 16, 2014

    I love that you did this! We did the virginia reel at our wedding reception. I think everyone should do this all the time. And play folk music (but that’s coming from a fiddler/mandolin player) 😉

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