STERLING – Line dancers have had no local place to “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” for about 20 years, Linda Wolber and Bonnie Mathews recall. Their gathering place in Galt has long since closed.
Most who dance say they would have to grapevine all the way to the Quad Cities, Chicago or the suburbs, but that was before River Country Stomp was founded in March.
All are grateful for a moment of happenstance that brought them together.
Karyn Hollenbach and Victoria Hughes were at Champs Bar and Grill, dancing to songs that a country band was performing. Normally the pair would go to the suburbs, where line dancing bars are plentiful.
Jared Wetzell of Milledgeville was at Champs that night, too.
He usually patronized the Rodeo Saloon, Feed House or WildWood Saloon, all in Iowa.
Before long, the three were chatting up one another. Each always dreamed of a local place to dance on a regular basis.
With their love of dance and Wetzell’s passion for teaching, they formulated a plan, ultimately creating River Country Stomp. As a group, they hoped to introduce new people to the dances they enjoyed and to meet as regularly as possible.
The newly formed group was welcome to gather on Champs’ dance floor. They met on Friday and Saturday nights, or whenever live country music was available.
Hughes, Hollenbach and Wetzell quickly learned they weren’t alone in their desire to line dance. The trio grew to 40, seemingly overnight.
They soon outgrew the dance floor at Champs.
“When we saw how many people were interested, I approached the Moose as a community offering, not to earn money,” Hollenbach said. “I wanted to have something for people to do, young and old, giving RCS more of a family environment at the same time. The Moose Family Center and everything the Moose Lodge stands for, is what I wanted to incorporate with dancing.”
DuWayne Beck, administrator of the Sterling Moose Family Center, said everyone benefited.
“It means a whole lot to this organization,” he sid. “This is the next generation for the lodge.”
One hand is washing the other. RCS members are joining the Moose, and Moose members are joining RCS.
“It really is a community service project,” Beck added. “I think it’s great.”
Wolber, who learned of RCS as a member of the Moose, called the dancing “a lot of fun.”
“I love to dance,” she said, “and it has been a really long time since we had some place close to home to do so.”
Wetzell, who has 3 years of experience, said the first 30 minutes of the lesson is primarily for beginners to learn the basic steps.
“For the most part, they have been pretty quick learners,” he said.
“No back-of-the-classroom mentality here,” she said. “I tell ’em, ‘Oh, no, honey, you’re going in the center.’ It is common nature to hide in the back, but that is the worst place to be.
“We can walk them through and encourage them to get in the center of all of us. That way, every time they turn, there is someone they are able to follow.”
The intermediate students arrive at 6:45 p.m. and dance until 8.
Every week they review dances, hone steps, and learn something new. They also are incorporating couples dances periodically.
Wetzell takes requests from students.
“Sometimes they tell me what they would like to learn next,” he said.
His demonstration videos are also uploaded on YouTube, so dancers can practice at home.
“I love that it is giving people something to do that is affordable good, clean fun,” Hollenbach said.
To the line
Every Thursday dancers meet at Sterling Moose Family Center, 2601 East Lincolnway, next to Angelo’s II. A donation of $2, is requested, all of which is donated to the lodge, Hollenbach said it is a token of RCS’s gratitude for use of its space.
All ages are welcome. Though the majority fall into the 35 and 40 year range, dancers as young as 10, and as old as 70, have joined them.
For December, dancers are being offered a half-price membership to join.
For more information about RCS, call Karyn Hollenbach at 815-631-1649.
For information about the Moose Lodge, call 815-625-0354.
RCS’s YouTube channel is www.youtube.com/user/rivercountrystomp, and you can also find the group on Facebook.