Rachel Barner, staff writer
Monday, January 11 was an exceptional day for some Saegertown students. Eleven students traveled to the 100th Pa. Farm Show for the square dancing competition.
The Wild Country Dancers exhibited their talents in four separate squares of eight- the Superman Set who wore red, the Minion Set which is blue, the John Deere Set which is pink, and the Wild Country Dancers Set which is green. Each of these sets won blue ribbons for their performance.
The competition requires the dancers to learn five songs. This year, the song selection was “Small World,” “Sometimes,” “12th Street Rag,” “Blue Smoke,” and “Toes.” The first two songs are warm-up songs, while the other three songs are the competition songs.
Saegertown students Sam and Ben Shelenberger, Rachel and Nathan Barner, Emily and Brittany Barr, Kenny, Emily, and Patrick Dunn, Amanda Crowl, and Marley McGowan are eleven of thirty-four square dancers from the Wild Country Dancers who exhibited at the Farm Show. The group is made up of kids from all around Crawford and Erie Counties. All of the dancers from Saegertown are doing it again next year. Sam Shelenberger said, “I would do it again next year because it is fun meeting new people and dancing to catchy tunes.”
Brenda Schmidt and Don Yosten founded this group in 2010. Schmidt, the advisor, found Yosten, the caller, to teach the new dancers the songs and the modern square dancing. In January 2011, the Wild Country Dancers went to the PA Farm Show and won first place. They have been winning blue ribbons ever since.
“Square dancing is fun. This group tends to be very fun. Putting the two together is a bit of magic,” Schmidt said, regarding the Wild Country Dancers. “I’ve been blessed with the ability to connect with kids. I understand the need for structure, motivation, increasing self-worth, and balancing it all with humor. But, more than anything, I think I like the magic. The magic of seeing kids who were strangers become great friends. Of seeing folks who were shy venture out of their comfort zone. The wonder of engaging kids in a fun, structured, and social event that lets them respectfully invade each other’s personal space.”
Schmidt has met many people throughout the years, and she enjoys what she does: teaching the dancers the songs, sewing crinolines and dance skirts, organizing practices and sets, stepping in to dance when other dancers aren’t there, and so much more.
Schmidt always observes the new and old dancers and the way they change. “I learn a little something every year about our dancers. The stories usually come from parents who tell me the impact that dancing has had on their kids. They’re energized and excited; they’re singing and being silly; they’ve come out of comfort zones; it’s something they look forward to doing and the parents don’t have to force them to attend; kids are being honest to goodness social with their peers; they learn that making mistakes is OK as long as you fix them—and you do have the power to fix them.”