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Folk Dance Federation of California, South, Inc.

Statewide: 42 Years and Counting

By Larry Getchel



Statewide Program 1952 Hosting the 7th Annual Statewide Festival in 1952 would be the North's responsibility and the offer made by folks from Oakland was one that could not be refused. The City of Oakland would be officially celebrating its Centennial and the city fathers were anxious to add our Statewide to their planned activities, offering their ample facilities to this end and without charge.

The San Francisco Bay area, including the Greater East Bay, was at the time, a real hot bed of folk and square dance activity. Once Oakland had been awarded the Festival, Leonard Murphy was appointed General Chairperson and his large complement of outstanding Committee members was representative of "Who's Who" in folk dancing for the next several years.

National Publicity, under Bill Sorensen, later president of the Federation, North, reached out to all corners of the West. Folk and square dance leaders and callers from such far away places as El Paso, Phoenix, Portland, and Salt Lake City responded with the promise from Salt Lake City alone of a caravan of 25 dancers. It became evident the large Oakland Municipal Auditorium would hardly be adequate so it was decided to put to use the equally large Exposition Auditorium, just across the street. Square dancers were not organized such as they are today and many of their callers and round dance leaders were expected to attend and, in fact, made a committment to do so.

The actual program in its final composition consisted of 23 pages, starting with the announcement of a Welcoming Picnic, Thursday the 29th, at Woodminster Park and continuing on through Sunday, June 1, afternoon and evening. The Exposition Auditorium was used principally for square and round dancing, leaving the Municipal Auditorium free for folk, square, and exhibition dancing.

To try to describe in detail the many and varied scheduling situations would take more space than is intended in this recounting of Statewide Festivals but I believe it safe to say that up to this time no such assembly of leaders, teachers, and callers, along with just ordinary dancers, had previously been assembled in one place at the same time in such numbers.

To dabble a bit in numbers, there were approximately 30 exhibitions, evenly divided between the North and South, with one from Portland thrown in, along with better than 30 callers, mostly local but also from as far away as El Paso, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Tacoma, Tuscon, and a dozen or more cities up and down the state.

The program itself was crammed full of folk and square dance leaders, callers, and officers of both Federations, past and present, along with other rising personalities who would take their places in the ongoing movement. I believe it safe to say that in quality and quantity, no gathering of folk and square dancers ever before or after has equalled that turn out for the 1952 Statewide. It probably also can be safely said that the Sunday morning Evaluation Breakfast, held at the Leamington Hotel, chaired by Bill Sorensen, was probably represented by the greatest number of clubs, before or after. The presiding presidents at the time were Bill Herlow of the South and Bill Castner of the North. Leonard Murphy, General Chairperson of the Festival, went on to become Federation president of the North and many others served as officers later.

Not everything ran as smoothly as we might have liked, though. The Exposition Auditorium did not have a wooden floor but was of hard-packed dirt. With all those square dancers kicking up a storm, that hard-pack soon softened up and the dust became a problem but it didn't stop the dancing. It was truly a fine Statewide and those of us who attended would remember it for a long time.

The program cover was designed by Bob and Eleanor Elsocht.