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Big Sky PBR adds community barn dance to schedule of events


By Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – After first drawing inspiration from a program on NBC’s “Today” show featuring Bynum, Montana, and its longstanding practice of meeting regularly for community dances, Eric Ladd decided to start a similar tradition in Big Sky.

Envisioned as an event that will promote and build a sense of community around a shared gathering space, the inaugural community barn dance on Wednesday, July 26, is fit “for young to old, no skill required,” said Ladd, CEO of Outlaw Partners, producer of Big Sky PBR and publisher of EBS.

“It was inspired from a scene in ‘A River Runs Through It’ where the community comes together to enjoy live music and dancing under the veil of white lights and star-filled skies,” he added.

Two days prior to Big Sky PBR’s first night of bull riding, long-time dance instructors Veda Barner and “Dancing Dan” Schlapkohl will coach even the greenest of dancers on the Montana Cowboy Swing and the Texas Waltz.

“[They’re] pretty easy to learn, you just have to come with a good attitude and a smile on your face,” Barner said. “Even if you think you have two left feet, you don’t.”

Barner and Schlapkohl used to hear from impressed onlookers that they looked so sharp on the dance floor, they should consider teaching. They took it to heart. “We thought we would try it for one time and see how it went, and it went for 21 years,” Barner said. During that time, they’ve taught open classes at Buck’s T-4 Lodge in Big Sky, and private classes for groups as well as betrothed couples preparing for their wedding day.

“It’s exciting to be having a community barn dance,” Barner said. “I think it’s something we should do annually [and] we’re going to do our best to make that happen.

“We guarantee it’s fun or your money back,” she added with a laugh. “It’s free!”

After the lesson wraps up, old-time string band the Beet Tops will take the stage, playing Appalachian fiddle tunes with a signature sass and energy that’s garnered them a reputation for getting folks moving on the dance floor.

Comprised of Claire Baer and Chelle Karcher on fiddle, Rob Terwilliger on banjo, guitarist Brian Herbel and bassist Travis Yost, the Missoula-based band will bring their unique sound to the Golden Buckle tent at the PBR arena.

Karcher will put her calling skills on display, leading dancers of all abilities through a Southern-style square dance, an old folk tradition that’s been enjoying a recent resurgence. First she’ll go through the dance without music to allow people to get the hang of it, and then they’ll add the strings. “Some people might associate square dancing with something that’s really complicated and busy [where] people get lost, but this is going to be more accessible,” she said.

“It always puts a big smile on my face and I look a little bit silly, which is part of what’s fun about it for me.”

Square dancing is a great way to feel connected to the people around you, of all ages, Karcher said. “It’s a really unique way of interacting with people and it’s truly a community event.”

The first annual community barn dance will take place in the Golden Buckle tent at the PBR arena on Wednesday, July 26. There will be free dance lessons in the Montana Cowboy Swing and Texas Waltz from 6-7 p.m., followed by square dancing led by the Beet Tops from 7:30-10 p.m.

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