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Members of the Turkey Trotters take to the floor during a recent square dance in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

Turkey Trottin': Worthington's square dance club celebrates 60 years

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WORTHINGTON -- Sixty-one years ago, at about this time of year, a group of local people first started talking about the need for a new form of recreation in Worthington -- square dancing. By the next spring, the talk had turned to action, and the Turkey Trotters Square Dance Club was formally organized in 1951 and quickly gained popularity. Just a few years after its founding, the membership list had 107 couples on it.

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Notable moments in the club's history include hosting the 1976 Minnesota State Convention with 2,400 dancers in attendance; supporting the 51st National Square Dance Convention in 2002 in St. Paul, during which a dance on the Wabasha Bridge made it into the Guinness Book of World Records; organizing special events such as the annual February Frolic; and dancing in the King Turkey Day parade. (Unfortunately, this will be the first year the club hasn't had a float.)

The local club is unique, too, as it has boasted six callers in the membership during its history: Al Carrigan, Don Gaberson, Wally Lucks, Art Lucks, Ken Jenkins and currently Chuck Moore. The only remaining charter members are Vernon and Grace Kay of Okabena.

Although their ranks aren't as strong as they once were, the Turkey Trotters are still alive and kicking their heels up on a regular basis during monthly dances, and they have a special dance planned in honor of the club's 60th anniversary.

So what keeps a bunch of people enthusiastic about dancing for 60 years? Square dancers refer to their activity as a "friendship set to music" and also tout its health benefits and the social aspects of their gatherings.

Here, in their own words, are what members of the Turkey Trotters had to say about the impact square dancing has had in their lives:

There are two things I always liked about square dancing. First, you don't have to do fancy footwork since square dancing is based on doing figures rather than footwork. And second, it is a cooperative activity rather than competitive. Everyone is working together to reach a common goal rather than trying to win a competition. Although square dancing is a couple's activity, I joined square dancing as a single, and it was a wonderful way for me to be physically active and meet other singles. Since there was no drinking or smoking at the dances, it fit in with my lifestyle, as I got out to dances around the country, I met many wonderful people. They became a network of people that I kept in touch with after the dances, and I looked forward to seeing again at another dance. Now I am married and enjoy dancing with a steady partner, but I still look forward to connecting with people who share my love for dancing and being active.

Lois Boersma

Occasionally during our (52) years of square dancing, Don and I would talk about and try to imagine what our lives together would have been had we not gotten involved in square dancing. We would never have had the opportunity to make so many, many friends, been involved in so many group activities which involved traveling, etc. Our longest trip for the purpose of square dancing was to Berlin, Germany. Because square dance calls are in English worldwide, we were able to square dance in so many foreign countries we visited. This gave us the opportunity to make friends in foreign lands. This probably would not have happened if we hadn't square danced. We also agreed that when the time would come that one of us would be left alone, we would keep on square dancing. This I have done, dancing with whoever is there. I also have learned to do the man's part so another lady would have a partner to dance with. We all know that it is so important to keep on learning throughout our whole life. Square dancing gives you that opportunity, and you can have fun while learning. Square dancing is endorsed by the American Heart Association. It is a fun, healthy thing to do. It is friendship set to music.

-- Bernice Camery

It has given us an opportunity to develop friendships with some wonderful people. It's an activity that we are welcomed at no matter where we travel. Being part of the national convention in 2002 was an awesome experience. Dancers and callers from all over the world coming together for the single purpose of having fun. The Turkey Trotters have endured for 60 years because of the dedication of its members. They are an awesome group of people.

-- Mary and Myril Ferguson

My husband and I started square dancing many years ago. We have especially enjoyed getting to know people from all over the area. We also appreciate the exercise it gives us as well as the brain stimulation it has provided.

-- Lois and Lester Heeringa

After the loss of my husband, I was asked to take square dance lessons and join the Turkey Trotters club. It was a good decision as it kept my mind and body busy after my loss. I met many new friends as I find square dancers very friendly. It's good exercise, and it's fun.

-- Norma Janssen

We danced with the Turkey Trotters for 40 years and met so many friends and had so many enjoyable evenings. It is such a fun, clean activity -- truly friendship set to music. If you're looking for clean, wholesome entertainment, square dancing is it. Give it a try.

-- Ken and Gloria Jenkins

We have been square dancing for several years, first in South Dakota and now in Minnesota, since moving to the Worthington area last year. It's not only a fun form of exercise, but we've also met a lot of great people and made many lifelong friends through our square dancing activity. Now that we have both retired, we go south in the winter and square dance there as well. Square dancing has been an important part of our lives, and we would highly recommend it to anyone.

-- Don and Judy Lorenzen

Many aspects of square dancing have made an impact on us. One which first comes to mind is the people. Square dancers are unpretentious, humble people. There is very little complaining or criticizing. They are welcoming, friendly and congenial. We talk about Minnesota nice. We can also talk about Iowa nice, South Dakota nice, etc., when describing square dancers. No one at a square dance stays a stranger very long. Square dancers readily admit that the activity is primarily a social event, one in which having a good time is a priority. Square dancers not only enjoy the activity, but also each other. They sometimes come tired, but leave energized. We have made so many friends in the square dance world. They not only live in all areas of Minnesota, but also in most areas of the United States.

Chuck and Jackie Moore

Many of us remember square dancing as a phy-ed course we took in high school. Who doesn't remember 'do-si-do your partner?" Turkey Trotters has introduced my husband and me to a wonderful group of people, a dance that is easy for everyone (even those rhythmically challenged) to follow and a tremendous indoor exercise.

The biggest impact for me is that after years of never getting to go dancing, my husband actually suggests we go to square dances. This has never happened with any other kind of dancing.

Kari Pierson

Good friends, lots of fun, good exercise. Helps keep your mind working. A place where you can bring your grandkids to have fun. And bringing back fond memories of the past.

Bob Thompson

The Turkey Trotters 60th Anniversary Dance will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 24 at St. Mary's School, 1206 Eighth Ave., Worthington. Caller will be Jerry Junck, and all dancers and former dancers are encouraged to attend. The Turkey Trotters' regular dances are generally from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month in the Farmers Room of the Nobles County Government Center, 315 10th St. All dancers and spectators are welcome. For more information about joining the Turkey Trotters, contact Bernice Camery, 376-5602, or Chuck and Jackie Moore, 372-2610.

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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