SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Arts & Entertainment


By Sharon Allen


March 09, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - It sounds like a Valentines Day's Dance, but it's not just for Valentines. And it's at the Crow's Nest, so most people in Ketchikan immediately assume they can't attend . . . but they can.

In fact, everyone is invited and the more the merrier. The music is almost as eclectic as the performers. No one is really sure which musician will show up that night with which instrument - sometimes it's the Rubberbands, other times it is Patty's Leather Breeches, and on some other night, it's just a strange mix of crazy musicians from Ketchikan and the surrounding areas.

jpg sweet second saturday dancers

Folk dancers at last month's Sweet Second Saturdays dance.
Photograph by Sharon Allen

For instance, at last month's dance, Carlene Allred was on fiddle, Heidi Hays was on fiddle, Christine Mander was on recorder and guitar, Terry O'Hara was on mandolin, and Dave Rubin was on guitar, just to name a few. They are all great musicians and great friends. The music played seemed to have a lot of Scottish and Irish old time tunes in it, although sometimes they add in some newer tunes once in a while.

The crowd is just as mixed. They range in all ages and dress is, for the most part, very casual. That's to be expected though, as it's a community activity with little kids mixed in giggling along with the adults as they miss steps or step on toes unintentionally. It's a lot of fun, and the dancers in the group, which tries to attend a dance each Second Saturday of the month (hence the name), is made up of single and married adults and some families. You don't have to have any dance experience since the beginners are taken aside and given some instruction before the dance starts.

Yes, there is talk about allemandes and swings, but all that really has little to do with the dancing going on, and beginning dancers seldom hear these tags discussed. Mostly it's about getting out there and having fun and the old-timers usually try to make sure that all the newcomers dance at least once just to understand how much fun it is, and hopefully, to decide to return again the following month.

Carol Alley, a Commander on the Coast Guard Base, instigated the Sweet Second Saturdays project a little over two years ago and kicked it off by bringing up Marion Rose.

jpg family dance

The dances vary so that at times the caller will call dances
that younger children can understand.
Photograph by Sharon Allen

Alley hopes that this Saturday's contra, square and circle dance will bring in some new faces, both young and old. This Saturday everyone is invited to come celebrate the 100th birthday of VINCE, Stan Felsman's 100-year-old Lombardi accordian.

The Sweet Second Saturday March Folk Dance, with a caller and the band eclectic, will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m this coming Saturday. All ages are welcome, but children must be supervised by an adult. Food and drinks can be purchased, but there are always a few people who bring in snacks to share. "These are just average people . . . conscientious about the world we live in," Alley says of the group. "These people are comfortable with themselves and having fun."

Alley says the family dance usually attracts both married couples, single parents or parents who want an alternative to bowling, the movies or staying home watching television. She says many people strike up friendships off the dance floor that last for years.

"Now they can bring the kids and everyone has a great time," she said. "It's a safe, secure environment. The dances vary so that at times the caller will call dances that smaller children can understand. Not 'Ring-Around-the-Rosy' stuff, but something like "Sasha."

"In the old traditional square dance, usually just one couple was moving," she said, "In the modern version, most figures involve all the dancers. The choreography flows more.

"What's really exciting though," Alley said, "is we're going to have someone come this summer and do a fiddle camp in June. We don't have an exact date yet, but we're hoping to get more kids interested in string instruments and maybe even have a workshop for adults."

Ask just about any dancer what she or he likes about it, and there's a good chance the answer will include the fact that anyone can do it, it's inexpensive, good fun and a great way to make friends. And we all need more of those.

Anyone wanting more information please email Calley(at)


On the Web:

Sweet Second Saturday March Folk Dance


Sharon Allen is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
who produces and sells articles to a publisher such as SitNews.

Contact Sharon at sharon(AT)

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Ketchikan, Alaska