For over 20 years, an annual square dance festival has marked the end of the season for the Swan Valley Swingers. But this year’s festival at the West Creston Hall marks the final event for the group, which is shutting down after more than 40 years.
“I remember square dancing as a teenager in the ’60s in Wynndel,” said president Shirley Cameron. “There were two clubs. It was the thing to do.”
Even as recent as 2000, there were 50 members in the Swingers, but that number dwindled to under 10 this year, and just four signed up for a class that required 16. The group usually held dances every two weeks, but shut down for the winter, anticipating the May 27-29 festival as the final hurrah.
The 22nd annual festival features three days of dancing, and the evening portion of May 28 is free to former members who want to join in. The general public can also watch for free.
The demise of the Swan Valley Swingers leaves the East Kootenay without a square dance club — a big change from when there used to be one in each community. The activity is still popular elsewhere, and dancers come to the Creston festival each year from as far away as Spokane, Kelowna and Calgary.
Adam Christman of Kalispel, Mont., will call dancing at the festival.
“He has a following of teens that love his calling,” said Cameron. “That was why there was a big push this year for a class, so people could see how fun he was.”
With 12 consecutive years of square dancing soon behind her, Cameron will miss it, but won’t let that get her down during the festival.
“It makes me a bit sad,” she said. “But we’ll just party harder.”
For more information, contact Shirley Cameron at 250-428-3995.