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Hagerstown based Gad-Abouts spin a golden square

October 15, 2007|By ALICIA NOTORIANNI

SHARPSBURG - Bob Lawn never fancied himself the square-dancing type. That was eight years ago, before he gave it a spin for himself.

Bob said his neighbor and neighbor's wife liked to square dance.

"(My neighbor's) wife's sister needed a partner, so they invited me. I figured I would hate it, but I went because I was asked and I loved it. I've been going ever since," Lawn said.

Lawn, 58, of Waynesboro, Pa., is now the vice president of Gad-Abouts Square Dance Club. The Hagerstown-based club has about 45 members, as well as a number of regular visitors to its dances on the second, fourth and fifth Saturdays of every month at Wacohu Grange near Clear Spring.

Gad-Abouts celebrated its 50th anniversary Sunday at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center. Festivities led by national caller Mike Sikorsky of Mesa, Ariz., drew more than 160 dancers from across the four-state region.

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"Chicken in bread pan, peckin' out dough, do a do-si-do. Load the boat. Ferris wheel," Sikorsky called out in a language unique to square dancers, who responded by circling their fingers in the air and shouting "Wheee!" as they glided around the floor.

Art Lavigne, 43, of Hagerstown has been the Gad-Abouts club caller for 10 years. He said callers not only choose the music, but they sing in between calling out choreography to dancers.

"A lot of calling is done on the spot. Dancers don't know what's coming up. If they think they do, callers will change it. If we see the dancers leaning left, we'll call right," Lavigne said.

Gad-Abouts President Martha Thompson, 55, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., spoke as the 1980s pop instrumental Axel F played. Thompson said callers use an eclectic blend of music.

"We have square-danced to 'Honky Tonk Badonkadonk' and to Steppenwolf. It's not all that hokey twang stuff people think," Thompson said.

Butch and Peggy Bloxom of Winchester, Va., cued the event, providing choreography for round dances for couples, as opposed to square dances for groups of eight. Peggy Bloxom cued as couples swiveled their hips and stepped in time to the Latin rhythm of Amor.

"Round dancing is very seductive, very sexy," she said.

Svelte blonde Cathy Doyle, 68, of Hagerstown, wore a three-tiered lavender crystalline dress with coordinating petticoats and bloomers, or pettipants, as square dancers call them.

"I have about 30 (square dancing) dresses. They fill up a whole closet," Doyle said.

Doyle said she and her husband, Jerry, 69, began square dancing in 1959, then quit after the first of their three sons was born. Twenty-five years ago, they began dancing again.

"It's good exercise. And you can always find a friend square dancing. It's good clean fun. No drinking, no smoking," she said. "They say it's friendship set to music."

Jackie Gregory, 16, of Berkeley Springs, said she became interested in square dancing because her grandfather, Mike McIntyre, is a caller. Gregory's long, red hair hung loose over her black shirt with scalloped cutouts on the sleeves, giving her an edgier look than most of the square dancers.

"Square dancing is just a really great thing in my life. I really enjoy it. It gives me something to do on the weekends," she said.

Bernice McKee, 85, of Clear Spring, a charter member of the Gad-Abouts, still dances with the group. McKee said her husband, who died in 1995, sparked her interest in square dancing.

"My husband loved square dancing so much he even, when he was sick, wanted to go for the fellowship. I still go for the exercise and the fellowship," McKee said. "It really hasn't changed a whole lot. It's still a lot of fun."

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