Many years ago, several of us were wondering about the beginnings of the contra dance group in Columbia. Missouri has had a tradition of square dances and barn dances, but not contra or Irish dances. How did it start? The legend was that it happened in someone’s kitchen in the 1970’s. But whose kitchen? When exactly? How did it move from that kitchen to the group it is today? I was interested in knowing more and offered to write something. What was I thinking? When would I find the time to find the information and write it into something that made sense? Then the 2013 government shutdown happened and I suddenly had what ended up being three weeks of free time with interdiction to work. So I started to interview all the people I could think of who had been part of these beginnings. Then it took months (and years) to sort the interviews, write something, force myself to get back to it after periods of inactivity, and finalize the writing with photos and documents throughout. The result is this history of MMTD.
I want to thank the many people that contributed the information and gave me fliers, photos and documents to back up that information. Namely, I want to thank Hank and Marie, who were the first I interviewed and were a driving force for the group to get off the ground, Clare Connors, without whom nothing would have happened, and Dave Para who had a trove of information about the bands and callers. They were the contributors to Chapter 1. For Chapter 2, Dave, Hank and Marie still had a lot of memories and information to offer, complemented by those from Win Grace, Kathy Gordon and Art Jeffrey. With the move from Columbia to Boonville, different people started to appear and I want to thank Jim Ronald and Michelle Emery for making time to answer questions and provide documents. Finally, Jim Thaxter, Paula McFarling, Linda Karns, and Peter Yronwode gave me all the ins and outs about the period from the mid-1990’s until present. I also appreciated the help from Linda Karns and Rhett Hartmann for helping with some of the interviews. It takes several people to make a village and having several people ask questions and react to the answers only enriched the outcome. Finally, many people reviewed the writings for grammar, spelling and clarity. Trying to list them all would only result in me forgetting someone. I thank you all.
I hope you’ll enjoy the reading. If there are mistakes, kindly point them out and I will make corrections. MMTD would not exist but for the contributions from many people. It took work and dedication. The issues that existed at the beginning were very close to those the group faces today: finding a venue, finding musicians, finding callers, and having a good sound. Thankfully, the internet has made learning new tunes and new dances a lot easier for callers and musicians, and getting support from other groups for organizers. However, the dedication it takes to put dancers, callers, and musicians together in a room that is large enough and has a wood floor still takes a lot of work, which few people take on. I thank the people who did that work then and I thank the people who do it now. See you at the dance.
Claire Baffaut, Columbia, MO.