Two historic milestones were celebrated on the weekend by the Williams Lake Stampede Whirlaways square dancers.
Close to 100 square dancers from throughout the province converged in Williams Lake at the Longhouse during the weekend for three days of dancing, friendship and camaraderie to help the Whirlaways host its 60th Anniversary Jamboree — a carnival-themed event billed ‘Under the Big Top.’
The other monumental achievement: Williams Lake’s Nick Turner was congratulated and recognized at the event in his 40th year of calling all the action for the Whirlaways.
Turner, now 78 years old, said he was first introduced to square dancing while he was living at Redstone in the Alexis Creek area.
“One of the ranchers had square dancing in his basement, and they would dance to records,” Turner said.
“The little group started to grow, and the record we used started to get so scratched on the side where the calling was, so one day I said I’d do it and that’s how I got started.”
A love of square dancing quickly flourished for Turner, who then began making the trip twice a week to Williams Lake to take part in the Whirlaways’ square dancing evenings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“The caller in Williams Lake moved, so they asked me,” he said. “It’s sort of nice being in charge of a group of people, and I like music, and I like singing, so it was a perfect fit.
“Eventually I had moved to Big Lake and then moved to town where it was a regular thing.”
In the meantime, Turner had also met his wife, Mary Anne Turner through the Whirlaways.
“When we got married Mary Anne took up cueing, and she became the club cuer and I was the caller — that was 25 years ago,” he said. “I taught her to square dance.”
Looking back on his 40 years of calling, Turner said some of the memories that stand out the most are the many festivals he’s visited.
“The square dancing festival in Penticton, it’s been going for 60 years,” he said.
“They’d lay down a wooden floor on the soccer pitch and at that time they’d have 4,000, 5,000 dancers. It was incredible.”
He’s also enjoyed the many friendships he’s made over the years.
“It’s a very social activity,” he said.
“We’re not intent on being professional dancers. We just like to have fun and visit a lot. The friendships square dancers build — we’re always friendly and welcoming, and it’s just kind of like a big family.”
The Whirlaways Jamboree, meanwhile, had the Longhouse twirling with modern square dancing.
Dancing began Friday night with pre rounds and mainstream dancing called by Turner, followed by dancing throughout the day Saturday as guest caller Dustin McGifford of Penticton and cuer Mary Anne brought the building to life.
Later, the group enjoyed a delicious roast beef dinner, followed by more mainstream dancing in the evening.
The Sunday portion of the Jamboree featured a continental breakfast for participants in the morning, followed by casual dancing to wrap up the festivities.
Whirlaways president Dana Ball said she couldn’t have been happier with how the weekend went.
“It was just amazing,” Ball said.
“We had a great turnout, with people coming from all over the province, from Vancouver Island to as far as away as Terrace.”
The circus theme also proved to be a hit as fun carnival-themed games were interspersed throughout the jamboree where participants had chances at winning prizes.
For more on the Stampede Whirlaways visit the group’s Facebook page by searching ‘Williams Lake Square Dancers.’