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Settlers' Contra Dance July 8

  CAMPTON HILLS, IL:     The Settlers’ Contra Dance will be held on Saturday July 8 at 7 pm in the restored 1842 threshing barn at Garfield Farm Museum. The dance will have dulcimer and fiddle music by the Scantlin’ Reunion band and Dona Benkert will call.

       In 1835 Sam Culbertson took up his claim in Campton Township on July 8. Six years later, the Timothy Garfield Family arrived on the farm on July 8 to purchase Culbertson’s 440 acre claim. In celebration of these milestone events, Garfield Farm Museum is holding a traditional mid-19th century dance featuring contras (reels), quadrilles (squares) and novelty (circle) dances that most all Americans once knew.  

       Music was highly prized as entertainment and a fiddle was sufficient to have a dance that would be called to give instructions to the dancers of the next movement or step. Most tunes were based on a simple 8 count and with the last 2 counts the caller would announce the next step such as the famous dos-a-dos, promenade, left hand star, etc. The popularity of these dances was in part due to the constant change of partners. One might come with a partner and dance with that person but one essentially danced around a square or up and down through the two opposing contra lines temporarily dancing with one’s neighboring dancer.

       In eras that had more formality much less familiarity of today, this opportunity for a person to dance with someone briefly that was a different age, different social or economic class or the “belle of the ball” required set standards of etiquette for “making Manners” as it was called. From itinerant dance instructors that travelled the countryside to dance academies in villages and towns, all were expected to also teach the latest manners of the day. All this was to make the other person feel at ease and pleased to be in the other’s company. As part of the evening’s dance, some of these techniques will be shared with the modern audience.

      From Independence Day dances to ordination dances for a new minister, dance was an integral part of America’s culture. Today dance has been relegated to the realm of romance versus a simple expression of the joy of the moment. That joy can be rediscovered on the restored threshing floor of the 1842 barn.

      There is a $10 donation per person and refreshments and desserts will be for sale. To reserve tickets call  630 584-8485 or e-mail Space at any one time may be limited so first come first serve is the rule until someone decides to sit out a dance or two. Novices are welcome to come at 6:30 pm for a basic introduction to some of the steps used in the evening.

       Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. For forty years donors and volunteers from around the country have worked to secure land, restore buildings and the prairie to help portray what a farm and country inn was like in the 1840s Illinois.