On April 16 & 17, the Gnat Boxers of Wooster, Ohio hosted a weekend vist by 18 dancers from the Happy Hoppers of Newmarket, Ontario. Contact between the clubs was initiated through the Gnat Boxers' web page and e-mail.
Friday evening, the clubs met and travelled to a dance at the Wahoos of Cuyahoga Falls called by Scotty Sharrer and the Gnat Boxers' club caller, Dick Mackey. Saturday the clubs toured Amish country, highlighted by Dick Mackey calling several tips following lunch at Alpine Alpa. They returned to Wooster to a pre-dance dinner prepared by the Gnat Boxers.
Jerry Junck, calling at the Gnat Boxers' regular dance, concluded the weekend. More than 16 squares enjoyed the dance and the excitement of meeting the Happy Hoppers. The clubs exchanged dangles and the Happy Hoppers extended invitations to visit their club.
The visit saw many new friendships formed. It also infused both clubs with the square dance spirit. Both clubs began planning for a return visit by the Gnat Boxers to Newmarket, Ontario.
On October 8, 1999 several carloads of Gnat Boxers, from Wooster, Ohio, braved the Thanksgiving Weekend traffic of the Golden Triangle of southern Ontario to visit The Happy Hoppers Square Dance Club of Newmarket, Ontario.
No sooner were they getting settled into their motel rooms when it was time to depart for a multi-level dance in the area. Thirty-one (31) Gnat Boxers and over sixty Happy Hoppers enjoyed the dancing, called by Doug Holmes, which was followed by a pie social hour.
Bright and early Saturday morning, the visitors and many of the host club boarded a bus for a mystery tour. The weather was bright and sunny, a perfect day for visiting the renowned Cullen Gardens, east of Toronto. An early frost had nipped a few of the tender flowers, but the visitors were treated to an avalanche of colour and greenery in the gardens, and enjoyed the tour through the miniature historic village which features well over 100 replicas of famous historic buildings of the district. After a couple hours of touring, we sat down in a covered patio dining area to partake of a delicious Thanksgiving luncheon. After plenty of good eating and some good-natured banter, we continued the tour of the gardens for another hour or so. Some weary feet got a little rest on the bus trip home. Some dancers even managed to catch a few winks, but most enjoyed the visiting with new square dancing friends.
In the evening, the Happy Hoppers hosted a dinner for the visitors and club members and followed that with an open Plus Dance, called by Doug Holmes. Several dancers from other clubs also attended, making for a very enjoyable and fun-filled dance.
Now we are looking forward to another visit next year.
We spent another wonderful weekend with the Gnat Boxers on May 19-21, 2000. On Friday we arrived at various times and were on our own for the afternoon and supper. We found several good restaurants close to the hotel.
Friday evening we attended a knee knocker dance at a private campground that was just down the road from the hotel and owned by Roger & Jolene Rehm of the Gnat Boxers. In order to get a knee knocker badge you had to dance a tip with your knees showing. It was quite a sight with a lot of pant legs rolled up and a lot of laughter.
Following the dance, there was a campfire to roast hotdogs and smores and time to socialize. It was a lovely relaxing evening and we were free to go back to our hotel at any time.
Saturday we were taken on a tour of Schantz Organs located in Orville, where huge, magnificent pipe organs are handcrafted for cathedrals across the world. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the unique opportunity to tour this facility.
Throughout the weekend we had the opportunity to drive around the area and see some of the sites and do a bit of shopping on our own. It's beautiful country and there's lots to see and do. There were always offers by the Gnat Boxers to drive you to points of interest.
Lunch Saturday at the campground consisted of delicious bbq chicken and lots of hot and cold potluck dishes (or "carry-in" as they say). The afternoon was social time, with games at the campground, touring on our own or with the Gnat Boxers and some time to relax if you wanted.
Saturday night a buffet of soup, salads and dessert was catered in the pavilion at the campground. We seemed to eat a great deal on Saturday. Following the meal, it was off to the International Dance. The dance was called by their club caller Dick Mackey and our Doug Holmes with round dancing by Max Colletta. I believe there were about 15 squares. The hall was decorated with Canadian and American flags (more Canadian I think).
At mid-evening the clubs were officially twinned with the reading and signing of the proclamation by Wooster Mayor Jamie Howey and the originators of the twinning event Sandy & Don Francis and Elaine & Tom Weygandt.. Newmarket Mayor Tom Taylor had already signed and sent official greetings. The Happy Hoppers were presented with commemorative dangles and a friendship basket filled with many wonderful items. The basket is a symbol of friendship between the clubs and is to be filled by the host club and passed to the visiting club on each visit. Mayor Howey issued a challenge to the Gnat Boxers to send at least 33 dancers to Newmarket on their next visit as there were 32 Happy Hoppers on this visit to Wooster.
The Happy Hoppers presented a "Twin Banner", of similar design to our twin badge. We've had an identical twin banner made for our club for display at different events. A quilted wall hanging, also depicting the friendship between the clubs was presented by Rob & Doris Ripley on behalf of the club, which was made by Rob & Doris, Marg Jones & Don Staples. Bob Hysong was our spokesperson and presented a list of the Top 10 reasons why we think twinning with Wooster is a good idea. The list was composed by Bob & Glenys Hysong and Russ & Joanne McAllister.
All in all it was a fantastic weekend and it is now up to the members of both clubs to carry on the kinship. Although the host club has a lot of work to organize a weekend such as this, the visiting club also puts forth a lot of effort and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated.
I hope we move forward and make this the best possible experience with our "TWIN" club and that everyone "gets involved" in some way. We had a brainstorming session before leaving for home and listed are some suggestions for future visits.
1. That the clubs meet once a year, sometime between April and the beginning of June; 2. That the Newmarket Happy Hoppers host the Gnat Boxers in Newmarket in 2001; 3. That we investigate the possibility of meeting at different locations thereafter; 4. That each club publish and exchange a newsletter of their activities; 5. That we prepare a cookbook of Gnat Boxers & Happy Hoppers recipes. 6. That we share information about events and activities in our region; 7. That the friendship basket be maintained as a symbol of our connection; 8. That we keep the lines of communication open.
A return visit to Newmarket by the Gnat Boxers is scheduled for the weekend of April 27 - 29, 2001.
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