Silver Twirling: Square Dance Festival Turns 25

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Couples in bright matching outfits and music that defies toe tapping is returning to the Rim country for the 25th year.

The Zane Grey Twirlers are hosting their 25th annual Payson Square Dance Festival this weekend at the Tonto Apache Recreation Center.

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Flash and fun will be the order of the weekend with the 25th annual Payson Square Dance Festival June 10 and 11 at the Tonto Apache Recreation Center. Hosted by the Zane Grey Twirlers, the event will have about 300 dancers participating.

"Because it's our 25th year we will have some special events to celebrate the anniversary," said Ken Caldwell, president of the Zane Grey Twirlers.

Mayor Barbara Brewer will offer welcoming remarks and on Saturday, balloons will shower the gymnasium. It won't be a typical balloon drop though, Caldwell said.

"Some of the balloons will have money in them," he explained.

The festival opens Friday, June 10 with a session from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. called "pre rounds" led by guest callers Mike and Linda Liberti. Then from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Dave Guille will lead dancers through square dance mainstream and plus patterns.

Caldwell said both Guille and the Libertis are professional callers from beginning to end. They make the event fun.

Dancing on Saturday, June 11 starts at 8:30 a.m. and continues until 10:30 p.m., with the grand march set for 7:45 p.m.

"We're anticipating more than 300 dancers from all over the U.S.," Caldwell said. "Of course the majority will be from Arizona."

This year, in addition to callers and dancers, the festival will have a few vendors selling special square dance wares, such as fashions and badges.

"About 30 businesses have also made donations of door prizes," Caldwell said, "In fact, I think we'll have our nicest door prizes ever."

There will also be a 50-50 raffle and a raffle for a guitar donated by the Payson Music Center, he said.

"Wes Hathaway was extremely generous and the Tonto Apache Tribe has been very supportive of the event and helped out in more ways than many. We are all most appreciative," Caldwell said. He added the town has also been quite helpful.

Caldwell has been involved with the Zane Grey Twirlers for about six years, along with his wife, Ronda.

"Our group is going to be especially attractive this year," he said. "Most of us have just returned from a square dance cruise and all the club members have matching outfits."

The Payson Square Dance Festival is the second largest festival in the state and is considered one of the best -- the biggest event is in Yuma.

Registration for the festival will be taken at the door for $25. Admission Friday evening and Saturday night, for dancers, is $9. Saturday morning's early program is free, while workshops on Saturday are $3.50 each.

Spectators are welcome to come see how much fun the dancers have.

The festival is not the first square dance event of the summer though. That honor goes to the Zane Grey Twirlers' first summer meeting, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday, June 8 at the Lamplighter RV Resort recreation center in Star Valley. There will be a potluck to open the evening and introduce the summer's new callers Bob and Pat Jones of Surprise.

The Joneses have been dancing since 1972 and calling since 1973.

"He is very professional," Caldwell said, "His voice is good enough for country music recording, plus he yodels."

The dancers will gather in Star Valley each Wednesday throughout the summer.

For more information about the festival, call (928) 472-8115, (928) 474-5138, (928) 474-0737 or (928) 472-6360.

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