Square Dance Festival Features National Callers

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The biggest crowd in Payson Saturday night will be twirling around the floor of the Tonto Apache Gym, beginning at 8 p.m.

Last year, 184 people (23 squares of eight people) danced the first tip after the Grand March at the 27th annual Rim County Square and Round Dance Festival.

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Zane Grey Twirlers Elisabeth and Neil Burke have been dancing since 1990 and John and Julie Shipp have been dancing sine 1984.

"Payson is known for the festival. We have a reputation for getting good callers, we have good food and wonderful door prizes," said festival chairperson Ronda Caldwell.

"This year is going to be bigger and better than ever," said Jean Winfrey, president of the Zane Grey Twirlers club. "The public is always welcome to come and watch the Grand March and us dance for free."

The club finds international callers for the local festival by attending other festivals throughout the Southwest and books them at least three years in advance.

Neither callers nor cuers at the dance have ever been repeated, in Caldwell's or Winfrey's memories.

Tom Miller from Chest Springs, Penn. will call the squares and Ronnie and Bonnie Bond of Tucson will call the rounds at the 2007 festival.

Squares are made up of four couples who dance to the steps Miller calls out.

Miller travels 75,000 to 100,000 miles a year with his hobby turned full-time profession and he has recorded for several specialty dance record labels, including Hi Hat and Lou Mac.

Miller will call the square dance workshop from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9.

The Bonds met at a dance and have square danced 20 years of their 45-year marriage.

Single couples dance to the cues called during fox trots, waltzes, rumbas and tangos.

During the winter, the Bonds cue rounds in Tucson. During the summer, they cue in Show Low. Then they travel to cue other Festivals in May and June.

The Bonds will cue a round dance workshop from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 9. They will also cue a few pre-rounds starting at 7 p.m. before the Grand March.

Dancing after the march lasts until 10:30 p.m.

"National callers give people something to look forward to," said event co-chair Ken Caldwell.

Multiple callers and cuers with their own music in hand are welcome at the opening dances on Saturday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. so long as they have registered Friday night.

"Having them is a good thing because it allows other clubs the chance to experience (usually Arizona) callers and cuers they have not heard before," Ronda Caldwell said.

A continental breakfast will be available to all dancers on Saturday morning.

"Festivals in other places such as Indio, Calif. or Phoenix cannot compete with our generous local merchants," she said.

Raffle and silent auction prizes include a guitar, artworks and jewelry. There are 41 door prizes -- everything from gift certificates to restaurants and spas to candles to a miniature waterfall sculpture.

"We would like to thank the merchants and we really appreciate the support of the Tonto Apache Tribe," Ken Caldwell said. "They don't have to do all that they do."

"The wooden gym floor is great and there is lots of space," Winfrey said.

The gym floor of the Festival offers 300 dancers the opportunity to do-si-so once a year.

On the sidelines will be "our very faithful cheering section" from Majestic Mountain Inn, he said.

Folk who have not square danced before can look forward to a beginner's class to be held at Majestic Rim in September.

To sign up for the class, contact Jean Winfrey (928) 474-6878 or Ronda Caldwell at secretary@ZaneGreyTwirlers.org or (928) 472-4371.

The Web site is www.zangreytwirlers.org.

The Zane Grey Twirlers meet to dance the first and third Saturdays from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Payson Senior Center, 514 W. Main St.

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