Contributed by Jeanne Miller
In the late 1980’s, square and round dancing was a very popular activity and was thriving in Denver, in Colorado and across the nation as well as in foreign countries. Denver, Colorado was growing at a rapid pace and it was an exciting place to be. A new airport to be dubbed “DIA” was in the final planning stages. To replace their small Convention center, there would be a large, ultra-modern facility to house the Colorado Convention Center. Denver is definitely a sports town and the teams were doing well. And - Pope John Paul II was scheduled to host World Youth Day in August, 1993 in this city.
Many, many Colorado dancers were deeply involved in dancing and organization on the club level, locally, statewide, nationally and internationally. Denver had hosted a National Square Dance Convention in 1959 and it was thought this would be an ideal time for another one. With the blessings of the Colorado State Square Dance Association, with Yogi and Dixie Frick as President, an exciting bid was made in 1990 in Memphis, Tennessee for the 1994 Convention. Especially impressive was that the then Mayor of Denver, Federico Pena, made a special effort to be in Memphis for the public bid presentation. He arrived on a return trip from Belgium late the night before. Much to our surprise and disappointment, the bid was awarded to Portland, Oregon.
Pres and Kay Minnick and Sam and Linda Margheim once again approached the Colorado State Square Dance Association to support a bid for presentation at the 1993 National Square Dance Convention held in St. Louis, Missouri, to host the 1998 National Square Dance Convention. The Bid Presentation Team at the Convention included the Minnicks and Margheims, members of the Colorado Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Colorado State Square Dance Association President Ron and Jeanne Miller. While the presentation was well thought out and beautifully done, Charlotte, North Carolina was chosen much to the chagrin of the Colorado dancers in attendance and the Bid Team. All of the supportive dancers at the Convention returned home quite despondent because they knew Colorado had so much to offer, but were not to be given the chance to host a National Convention.
After returning to Denver from the National Square Dance Convention in St. Louis, the Minnicks and the Margheims received many contacts from across the square dance world from Callers, Cuers, Vendors, and many dancers expressing a concern that a national quality square dance convention should be held more frequently in the western United States.
After much discussion and having bid for two National Conventions, the Minnicks and Margheims capitulated and assembled a group of Colorado leaders and dancers on September 13, 1993 for the purpose of discussing the feasibility of putting together a regional convention where the western states would be included. It was noted that a majority of past National Square Dance Conventions were held in eastern or southern states, with very few held in western states even though the National had originated in California. Present at the meeting were Dixie and Yogi Frick, Al and Darlene Lewis, Ed and Dottie Toner, Ron and Jeanne Miller and other active and interested dancers. At this two day weekend meeting, ideas were discussed and plans were formed to develop the first Western Regional Square Dance Convention.
As time and plans were made, many thoughts emerged and as Kay Minnick was paying bills to the US West Telephone Company, “the bell rang” and suddenly the name changed and USAWEST SQUARE DANCE CONVENTION was “BORN!”
The mission statement that was eventually developed is as follows:
THE USAWEST SQUARE DANCE CONVENTION SHALL BE PLANNED AND PROGRAMMED PRIMARILY FOR THE ENJOYMENT AND BENEFIT OF SQUARE DANCERS. IT SHALL PROVIDE FOR THE FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF THE SQUARE DANCE ACTIVITY THROUGH AN INTERCHANGE OF IDEAS AND METHODS.
It was also determined that if the National Square Dance Convention was to be held in one of the thirteen western designated states, USAWEST would go dark for that year in support of NSDC.
Untold hours and many meetings between the Minnick’s and Margheim’s at the local watering hole, Goodberry’s, were spent laying out the convention framework after the September, 1993 formation meeting.
Several of the members of the initial first planning meeting signed on as Directors for one of the available positions of the first USAWEST SQUARE DANCE CONVENTION to be held in Denver, Colorado, August 6, 7, 8, and 9, 1997. Tom and Edie Stone, Director of Business: Ed and Dottie Toner, Director of Services: Steve and Darlene Archer, Director of Registration/Housing: Frank and Gail Greenwood, Director General Dance Program: Dave and Mary Ann Guille - Director of Square Dance Program: Jim and Bonnie Bahr, Director of Round Dance program: Charlie and Coletta Gaunt, Director of Publicity: Richard and Judy Swanson, Director of Education: Dixie Frick with Yogi’s help – Director of Fashion Show/Decorations: Ron and Jeanne Miller – Director of Social Events and Special Activities: Rob and Terri Sherwood, Director of Communications and Computer Coordinator, and of course the Secretaries Joan Oswald and Marilyn Bell with Pres and Kay and Sam and Linda, the fearless Co-Chairmen, spearheading the event. Many dedicated dancer friends took other positions or became committee members. Everyone worked diligently to make the first Convention a success.
Dixie Frick designed and contracted with a fabric factory to produce the beautiful columbine fabric, which is as outstanding today as it was in 1997. So many stunning outfits were made from this fabric and it is still inspiring to see the creativity of the seamstress artists.
In June 1997 an exciting, once in a lifetime occurrence saw two squares, plus Pres and Kay Minnick all dressed in the columbine convention attire and caller Don Furnish, entertain the wives of the SUMMIT of 8 WORLD LEADERS, who were meeting in Denver, at a luncheon at the Summit House of the Winter Park Ski Area. The White House contacted Kay Minnick directly, who in turn asked Sam Margheim to make arrangements for the event which turned out to be not only exciting but challenging as some unusual travel arrangements had to be made to reach the mountain top after arriving at the ski area. Security was not only heavy, it was extreme! However when the exhibition finished, Hillary Clinton jumped up and urged all the ladies to meet the dancers. Dixie had a brief chat in Japanese with Mrs. Hashimoto, Dick Swanson danced a step or two with Mrs. Yeltsin. Kay spent a moment talking through an Italian interpreter to Mrs. Prodi. It was quite an experience to speak to Mrs. Blair from England. They asked many questions about the columbine fabric before the security people finally got us all separated.
The First Ladies were: Mrs. Hillary Rodham (Bill) Clinton of USA: Mrs. Kumiko (Ryutaro) Hashimoto of Japan: Mrs. Cherie (Tony) Blair of United Kingdom: Mrs. Flavia (Romano) Prodi of Italy: Mrs. Aline (Jean) Chretien, of Canada: Mrs. Naina (Boris) Yelsin, of Russia: also there were Mrs. Rita (Wim Kok) Kok-Roukema, of the Eurpean Council and Mrs. Daniel Binot (Jacques) of the European Union Commission. Cast of dancers were; Duane and Jane Calkins: Yogi and Dixie Frick: Ron and Jeanne Miller: Ed and Dottie Toner: Steve and Darline Archer: Tom and Edie Stone: Dick and Edna Swanson: Sam and Linda Margheim: Pres and Kay Minnick and Don Furnish was the caller.
Work continued with the convention goal in sight. After months of intense planning, the various leaders and dancers who had been contacted in 1994 from the western states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming were invited to attend a meeting at the 1994 Convention in Portland, Oregon and to discuss support for this endeavor. Not every state sent a representative. Two actually declined to participate, but those interested dancers/leaders that did come were also concerned about the lack of NSDC conventions in the West and were very excited about perhaps being able to host such an event.
With all of the bases covered and all plans intact, on August 6, 1997, Pres and Kay and Sam and Linda cut the ribbon to open the first USAWEST SQUARE DANCE CONVENTION at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, Colorado. The Sons of The San Joaquin sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem and the dancers then disbursed to the various venues either for square or round dancing, or off to the Auditorium Theater for the very Special Event, “Celebrate the Cowboy” with Southern Exposure, Cowboy Poet Baxter Black and the Sons of the San Joaquin. It was a “special event” for everyone involved!!
While the anticipated numbers of dancers did not materialize, it was a fine event and those who did come were very encouraging. It provided the large convention experience for the 3,300, plus or minus dancers, many of whom had never attended such an event before and it began the groundwork for all of the Conventions to follow.
It is interesting to note that the USAWEST SQUARE DANCE CONVENTION was recognized immediately by all the National and International organizations of square dance of being worthy and equal in stature and importance.