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Dancing on the square
A thousand gay square dancers had a real good time in Cleveland
Cleveland--While the skies were ablaze with color celebrating the birth of the nation, the real fireworks were going on inside the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on Public Square, where a thousand people were reveling at the 25th anniversary International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs convention.
With the moniker “Touch a Quarter Century,” the event brought in almost 900 people from across the United States, as well a solid contingent from Canada and a few from Japan, Denmark and Taiwan.
Those representing the United States over the Independence Day weekend came from 25 states.
The convention filled the nearly 500-room Renaissance Cleveland, with the overflow staying at the Marriott at Key Center across the square.
Similarly, the events spilled out of the hotel’s ballrooms and into the streets, with a Sunday “Two-Stepping on the Square” taking place outside in Public Square, trips to Cedar Point, Amish country, viewing the dragon boat races on the Cuyahoga River and karaoke, as well as dozens of dances for various groups attending the convention.
Even after a week of recovering, co-chair Earl Melvin was still a little dazed at the scope and scale of the feat he and the other committee members pulled off.
“I am still numb and overwhelmed at what a big task this convention was,” he confided.
He joked that his favorite part of the event was “when it was over,” but then noted, “There were so many parts of the convention that I enjoyed. One of my favorites would be meeting new friends and seeing all of our old friends. Every convention becomes one big happy family reunion every year.”
It was the first time since 2002 that the IAGSDC convention was held in the eastern half of the continent, and the first since 2000 that it was in the eastern half of the United States--the 2002 gathering was in Toronto.
The event was presented by the Cleveland City Country Dancers, the area’s only LGBT square dance organization, and Silver Squares, which was created solely for the purpose of organizing the convention and will be dissolved by the end of the year, according to Melvin.
“This convention has been a labor of love for CCCD for five years,” Melvin noted. “Stan [Kawecki], Michael [Spayd] and I began preparing the bid five years ago. We presented our bid in 2004 at the Phoenix convention, ‘Remake the Heat Wave.’ ”
Kawecki and Spayd were the other two co-chairs of “Touch a Quarter Century.”
“We won the bid to have the convention for the 25th annual IAGSDC here in Cleveland, and the rest is now history,” he said.
He pointed also to the efforts of the other volunteers as one of the main reasons the event went off so well, praising the decorations of Kenny Hartwig and Frank Smith, Nancy Hughes’ efforts on the country western dance, John R. Johnson’s work with merchandising and registration and Brian Keating’s work as the liaison to the Gay Callers’ Association.
He also expressed his gratitude to Mark McLoney’s work organizing the fun badge tour, Jeff McPeak’s efforts with the newsletter, Tom Voss’ coordination of the hotel set-up and women’s space organizer Deb Sarver, along with 60 volunteers who, Melvin noted, weren’t even part of the organization. Instead, they were friends and family members who pitched in to pull off a convention that people in other cities thought Cleveland was too small a club to handle.
Next year, the convention will be held in Washington, D.C., followed by Chicago in 2010, Atlanta in 2011 and Vancouver, British Columbia in 2012.