Swing Your Partner

Wagon Wheelers square dancer club welcomes graduates

A fun-filled graduation ceremony was held at the Springbrook Gym in Alcoa, and the students were asked to demonstrate skills like Allemande Left and Yellow Rock The Corner.

The Wagon Wheelers, a local Western-style mainstream square dancing club, welcomed 17 graduates who completed months of classes and learned to react to 68 different calls.

“Square dancing is a great way to relieve stress,” said Betty Bowers, president of the Wagon Wheelers, who meet every Tuesday evening on the second floor of the Springbrook gymnasium.

The graduation ceremony was a spirited event that put to test the students’ square dancing knowledge, all while having fun.

The first “test” of graduation was for eight volunteers to square up for a tip, which is the square dancing terminology for “dance.” Bowers rolled in her suitcase packed with an assortment of items that were handed out the to unsuspecting volunteers who had to square dance while holding the item.

The crowd enjoyed watching the participants dance with an egg, a box of cereal, an apple, the yellow pages, a balloon and even the rolling suitcase.

The second “test” called for all the students to square up for a tip. Bowers handed each a balloon and asked for them to tie it around their ankle. Their mission was to not only listen to the square dancing calls, but to try to pop each other’s balloons.

The third and final “test” was a written exam to test their square dancing knowledge and their ability to closely follow instructions. The graduates were asked to move their chairs to the middle of the room where they were handed their test papers. They were given three minutes to complete the written portion. The first question advised them to read the entire test before beginning the exam. One or two participants caught on early and proclaimed they were finished.

That didn’t deter the others from scribbling furiously on their papers and shouting out the answers at the appropriate times. After three minutes, Bowers collected the papers and gave them a cursory scan to see how far each student got.

She then read aloud the last question: “Only answer questions one and two which were Read all the directions and put your name on your paper.” Groans could be heard from most of the participants.

With the silliness aside, it was time for the graduates to receive their certificate of completion along with their official Wagon Wheelers nametags.

“You’re no longer beginners,” Bowers told the group. “You’ve developed the attitude that each is a valuable member of the square.”

“You’re entering a new phase,” instructor Joanne Tipton said. “The more you go, the better dancers you’ll be.”

Each graduate shared similar reasons for enjoying square dancing.

“I love the people,” said square dancing graduate and veterinary assistant, Cindy Wagner. “It’s good for the mind because you have to remember the calls.”

According to Wagner, the students learned a new call each week. Helping with the instruction was Allen Tipton, a world-class caller with more than 50 years of experience. Tipton, who has traveled all over the United States and Canada as a national caller, has been calling for the Wagon Wheelers since the 1960s.

Tipton said he enjoys the fellowship, the fun and the people he meets when he teaches the Western style of square dancing. Tipton said two of his crowning achievements were the two opportunities he had to call at Neyland Stadium with the UT marching band during half time of a football game.

“The first time we had 18 squares and the next time we had 28 squares,” Tipton said of his halftime experience. Each square consists of eight people.

“He has a golden voice,” Bowers said of Tipton.

The graduating students were Sandra and Mark Bohling, Darlene and Richard Coffey, Jim Goode, Darlene Kempt, Bonnie and Ray McCampbell, Elaine and Gene Moon, Michele and Mike Roach, Pam and Keith Schram, Nina and Denny Swartz and Cindy Wagner.

The Wagon Wheelers meet on the second floor of the Springbrook Gymnasium every Tuesday at 7 p.m. The public is invited. For more information about classes forming in the fall, contact Betty Bowers at 865-982-9924.

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