Chapter 3

Chapter 3 – Boonville

When the group lost LRW, it lost a place to dance in Columbia and it seems to many that the group had died away. It did not completely die out though. But many were not aware of where it had sprouted, 20 miles west of Columbia. Jim Ronald had been gradually more and more in charge of the group and was living at the time in Lupus. He and other organizers (Tim and Gayle vonEnglen) found a place in Boonville, at the Hotel Frederick, then at the Knights of Pythias on Main Street, upstairs. But that meant that everyone from Columbia had to drive and for some it was too far and they just stopped dancing. Or maybe they just missed the announcement. Others though kept going regularly. On the other hand, dancers from Boonville and its surrounding started to come. Announcements were sent to the papers serving that area more than Columbia.

Article in the Boonville Daily News, December 4, 1985.

To make it easier for the dancers who had to drive, the time changed from Mondays to Fridays. All in all the dances attracted from 30 to 50 dancers. No one talked about any admission and the group stilled passed the hat to compensate the caller, trying to give them as much as they could, reportedly $20 for the caller and between $100 and $150 for the musicians. 

The main music talents were Kathy and Dave, and Paul and Win. Kathy and Dave lived in Boonville since 1981, and playing in Boonville was easy for them. Paul and Win had made the decision to live of their music and accepted all the gigs they could get. Derrick was still the main caller. Gene Hubert was calling as well and writing more modern dances. In 1986, he published Dizzy dances II. Unfortunately for the group, it is also in 1986 that he moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.

In 1987, another player came into the story: Michelle Emery. Michelle had started dancing in Columbia at Lela Raney. When the group left Columbia and moved to Boonville, she did not follow but she picked up the fiddle and took lessons with Paul Fotsch. But Michelle wanted something else that was more than the monthly dances in Boonville and more than playing the fiddle. She wanted something big. And instead of moving to a place where she would find that environment, she tried to create it here. The first step was to incorporate the organization and to get the not-for-profit status in order to be able to apply for grant funding. And so she did and created the Mid-Missouri Country Dancers not-for-profit organization in August 1987 and incorporated in the State of Missouri on October 13, 1987. Three people were required to sign the paperwork: Michelle Emery (president), Jim Ronald (vice-president) and Janet Held (secretary/treasurer). Michelle and Janet lived in Columbia, Jim’s official address was in Jamestown. 

Following this, the First All-night contra dance took place in Boonville at the Knights of Pythias on November 8th, 1987. Admission was $7.00 and included a continental breakfast. Childgrove St Louis dancers had been contacted and figure on the flyer. It is not clear how much of the organization they contributed but they certainly helped since they were (and are) the organizers of the Kimmswick festival, which had been going on for many years already. 

There are not many documents from the 1987 All-night dance. The grant application for the 1988 All-Night dance gives some insight at what it included. And a post-it note to Joel Chrisman, who lived in Kansas City at the time, show that they danced till 3:15 am. Participants report sleeping right there; everyone had brought their sleeping bags. 

Michelle applied for funding from the Missouri Arts Council in February 1988 for the second All-night dance. The requested funds ($750) covered expenses for 6 callers (each being paid $15), 3 bands ($150 each), venue rental ($100), advertising in local papers, flyer printing and postage, and food for breakfast. In addition, eight callers from Illinois, St Louis, Lawrence, Kansas City, and Columbia and two bands from St Louis and Lawrence were expected to be there and play or call pro-bono. The event took place on October 29, 1988, again at the Knights of Pythias. 

Newspaper ads for the 1988 All-night dance.

Alas, once again the group lost a nice space at the Knights of Pythias. While they could rapidly go back to the Hotel Frederick, dancing there was a challenge because of the poles throughout the space. After these three years in Boonville, it was apparent that going back to Columbia was necessary. In the fall of 1988 and spring 1989, it was Jim Ronald’s top priority. There were not many places at that time and Jim scoured all over town for a venue. He happened to talk to the secretary of the Calvary Episcopal Church, on 9th Street. She was open to it. Jim immediately went “to buy and have delivered a dozen red roses to her as a thank you for being open to us dancing there”. By the next day, Jim got the OK to dance there. The floor was hard (tiled) but dancers were not picky. That was the way to get back to Columbia.