My Thoughts · square dance

Measure the Success of a New Festival

Gary Shoemake, Jerry Gilbreath & Ken Bower at April Showers Festival
Gary Shoemake, Jerry Gilbreath & Ken Bower at April Showers Festival

How do you measure the success of a festival? I just attended a new square and round dance festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico—April Showers, and I know beyond any doubt it was a success. Why?

My feet ache, my face hurts from laughing so much and my heart sings! All these signs indicated a smashing success. In a post-COVID world, numbers of dancers are smaller. Some people are still wary about coming out to dance. The Albuquerque Square Dance Center requires dancers to be vaccinated, so that kept some at home. But many came out to forget the worries of this world and dance!

We found out this morning during some story telling, Ken Bower, Gary Shoemake and Bob and Sally Nolen started their calling and cuing careers in Albuquerque in the early 70s at Summer Sounds, a successful square and round dance festival that continued for nearly twenty years and was the predecessors to Hot August Nights, a festival I help run that is still going today. So, Jerry and Mary Beth Gilbreath thought up the idea of a new festival and the other four agreed wholeheartedly; thus April Showers was born.

During the weeks before the event, I wondered if we’d get enough dancers to have it. The registrations trickled in, but I continued to promote it and other upcoming festivals on Facebook, hoping to stir up interest.

Finally, Friday came, and it was a go—our first festival in over two years. After showering, I blew my hair dry and put on my makeup, which has become quite a chore after not doing it for two years. I donned my beautiful square dance outfit, dressing in matching outfits to promote our next festival. I added matching pettipants and a fluffy slip that makes my dress stand out! Square dance outfits overflow with energy in their beauty, swirling with every movement.

The event began. When we arrived Friday night, I looked around the hall and choked up—I knew so many of the dancers from other events, especially Fun Valley RV Resort in Colorado and felt blessed to be back doing what I love—dancing.

Immediately, I noticed the high energy level—no sour faces, no negative words, just an amiable group celebrating life after two years of no festivals. Yes, the size of the crowd wasn’t as big as before the pandemic, but the dancers’ commitment to having a good time enlarged the size.

We danced Friday night away to our three favorite callers and two dear cuers. The evening was over before I knew it!

Here’s a video of dancing Friday night:

When Lin and I got home, we reviewed the night, laughing at the fun parts. I had trouble sleeping because of the heightened adrenaline level.

Saturday, we started again at 10:30 am although we missed the round dance workshop at 9:00 am. We live about twenty miles from Albuquerque and had to decide just how much of the weekend we could do, so we gave up the round dance workshop. We did the mainstream workshop and enjoyed the fun the callers did by workshopping some different moves.

For lunch, we joined two other couples and enjoyed the one-on-one conversation and exchange. I realized this is what we missed so much during the pandemic—the sharing of our lives and the laughter. These times over meals over the years have solidified relationships with so many friends from all over the country. After two years’ absence, I felt connected again.

Then we missed the Introduction to Round dancing but took part in the Plus workshop. Afterwards we drove home, enjoyed a brief nap and dressed and returned for the evening dance.

Again, I dressed in matching outfits to promote another square dance event coming up in Albuquerque. I had the surprise of my life when I walked in the dance hall and the cuer and his wife who taught me to round dance had come down to the hall for the evening with a square dance legend from years ago. What a joy to see these three precious friends from the past.

The Saturday night dance overflowed with laughter and energy again, yet more revved up than Friday night. Square dance dresses swirled around the floor. I saw so many smiles, so many people relaxed and enjoying themselves. Some square dance shenanigans happened like scatter promenades and one wild square where the original square was joined by many others walking through the square and joining in. I never laughed so hard. We ended the evening with ice cream sundaes and two-stepping to Jerry Gilbreath’s gorgeous renditions of some of my favorite country music standards.

As if that’s not enough, we returned this morning (Sunday) at 10:00 am for two more hours of dancing fun. Sunday mornings traditionally in Albuquerque are filled with a lot of insane scatter promenades and “Air Raids.” This morning continued the traditions.

So what is the measure of a successful festival? Does the number of squares determine it? We had seven to eight—small compared to pre-COVID standards. How about the smiles, the laughter, the total release from any cares or concerns? I measure the success by those things too, especially in today’s world.

Thank you Gary, Ken, Jerry, Bob and Sally for a successful first April Showers festival. I look forward to next year’s continuation of this wonderful tradition.

Finally, here’s a quote by Bell Hooks that caught my eye: “The choice to love is the choice to connect—to find ourselves in the other.” I felt so connected this weekend and that’s another measure of success!

How do you measure the success of a festival, pre-COVID? I’d be interested!

~NEW PODCAST to be released Thursday, March 17, 2022, discussing my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? : Live on Purpose Podcast at

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme

~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: or at Amazon.

~Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~Are you on a spiritual path? Do you want to heal from the horrible effects of the pandemic of 2020? Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks:

Life Lessons · My Thoughts · square dance

Our Ten Year Anniversary—Really?

Lin & Larada - wedding picture - ten years ago
Lin & Larada, Wedding Day, 2011

Ten years of marriage—how time flies! On Friday, October 22, 2021, Lin and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. That number shocks me—it’s hard to believe it’s been ten years!

How We Got Together

In 2008, I divorced my third husband and adjusted to being single again. I jumped into Single Square Dancers USA (SSDUSA), becoming vice-president in 2009, president in 2010, and past president in 2011. When I signed on in 2009, I knew I had made a three-year commitment. My renewed involvement helped me handle my recent divorce.

In 2009, Lin’s wife, Kathi, died from reoccurring cancer. She was my best girlfriend in square dancing. She and Lin and my ex and I had danced, traveled and played card games together for several years.

After Kathi passed away in November, and in December, a friend of ours set Lin and me up to dance together at a holiday dance. After the first of the year, Lin called and asked if I’d like to dance with him at the weekly dances in Albuquerque. At this point, I was tired of dancing by myself round dancing (cued ballroom dancing) or dancing the guy part in square dances, so I agreed to it.

As time went on, we enjoyed the dancing and our time together, and realized there could be more. Cautiously, we moved forward and our relationship grew. So, Christmas Day 2010, Lin proposed to me in front of my mom and my aunt Willie, and I readily accepted with, “Yes!”

How We Scheduled Our Wedding

In 2010, I held the position of president of Single Square Dancers USA and faced being the recent past president in 2011. SSDUSA held their yearly festival and business meeting annually over Labor Day weekend. So, when we started talking about a wedding day, it had to be after Labor Day, 2011, so I could finish my three-year commitment.

To give us some breathing room, we set our big day for October 22, 2011, and it had to be a square and round dance event!

How We Ended Up with over 250 Attendees

So, for the entire year of 2011, after Lin proposed, Lin invited everyone to come to our wedding at any square dance we attended around the country. We did not know how many to plan for when we finally got down to ordering our cake and reception supplies. The Albuquerque Square Dance Center limits its attendance to 299. We hoped we would stay within that requirement, and we did!

How Our Wedding Unfolded

Lin, Marya (minister who married us), Larada, 2011
Lin, Marya (minister who married us), Larada, 2011

Lin and I both had been married before, so my Episcopalian priest couldn’t marry us, but he offered to do our pre-marriage counseling. So, we searched online and found the perfect person to do the ceremony, Marya. She encouraged us to help create the ceremony and our vows. I included some recovery verbiage, and it became our own. We wanted a brief ceremony, leaving the rest of the afternoon for the reception, party and dance time.

The Bridal Party, 2011 - Ten years ago
The Bridal Party, 2011

For Lin’s best men, he asked two dance friends who were like brothers to him. I asked eleven women to be my maids/matrons of honor, women from all the different areas of my life.

When it came to my dress, I wanted only one woman to make it—Mary Jo Smith who had made our catchy Hot August Nights’ outfits, and me several other outfits. I bought the material here in Albuquerque, sent it to her in Virginia and she did her magic!

We selected Pastian’s Bakery for our wedding cake, another “must.” What a gorgeous cake they made, and Sheri, the owner’s daughter and dear friend, helped create a fun sports focused groom’s cake.

Another friend, Nicole Tagart, took the gorgeous pictures for us, and Sharon McCafferty agreed to video-tape it at the last minute.

How Our Wedding Day Went

My brother, Lin, Larada & Mom, 2011
My brother, Lin, Larada & Mom, 2011

My mom and brother gave me away, and we walked in with Train’s song, “Marry Me” playing. I wrote a poem for Lin and shared it, and he played a George Strait song, “I Cross My Heart,” for me. Afterwards, we cut the cake and did the traditional cake eating and drink exchange. Then the dancing began.

Lin & Larada Round Dancing, 2011 - Ten years ago
Lin & Larada Round Dancing, 2011

During the reception/party, we had square dancing, round dancing and country western. What a grand party it was! We had three square dance callers: Jerry Gilbreath, Joey Solis and Art Tangen. Shirley and Don Underwood did the rounds for us, and Scott Amspoker played country and western dance music.

Afterwards, a group of us went out to dinner at Monroe’s on Osuna. We noticed the absence of Tom and Dottie Doherty, dance friends from Colorado, but figured they decided not to come. Afterwards, we brought the group up to Lin’s house in the mountains to see his mountain hideaway.

We gathered our bags and drove to the Bottger Mansion, a bed-and-breakfast in Old Town, for our wedding night. What a memorable time we had. After a delicious gourmet breakfast the next morning, Lin drove me to my townhouse to see my brother off to the airport, and we planned to pick up my mom and go out to his house.

Suddenly, our plans changed. Tom and Dottie, who were supposed to join us for dinner, were t-boned in an accident, coming to the restaurant to join us the night before. Dottie’s injuries weren’t too bad, but Tom was severely hurt. So, we took my brother to the airport, then picked up Dottie and took her to the hospital to see Tom. Mom and I ended up staying at my townhouse for two weeks to help Dottie get to the hospital to take care of Tom and provide emotional support for her.

How We Filled Ten Years

After that glorious day, Lin and I filled the following precious ten years with dancing around the United States, traveling here in the United States and abroad on cruises, tours and with friends. At home, Lin created a gorgeous flower garden, dedicating many hours to it. I have self-published six books and three cookbooks. We savored our full rich life, and time quickly passed.

Ten Years Later—How We Celebrated our Tenth Anniversary

On Friday, October 22, 2021, the actual date of our wedding, we had photos taken to commemorate the day like we did for our fifth anniversary on our Panama Canal cruise. After the photo shot, we had dinner at Chili’s and came home and watched the video of our wedding—I shed a few tears.

Then on Saturday, October 23, 2021, because the Bottger Mansion was so special to us ten years ago, we spent the night there to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We wanted the 22nd, but it wasn’t available. To enjoy the area, we drove to Albuquerque about 2:00 pm to check in early. Then we shopped around Old Town, enjoying our favorite old haunts and seeing the sad effect the pandemic has had on restaurants and shops there. For dinner, we ate at the Church Street Café. A Mexican music group serenaded us while we ate. To end our time at the Bottger, we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast and came home.

Whew! Ten wonderful years later, we looked back and relished our time together. Now we look to the next ten and the adventures ahead of us.

How long have you been married? How do you celebrate those milestone anniversaries? (Scroll below to share your comments!)

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
Read, reflect and respond on the beach!

My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, is now available:

Just Another Square Dance Caller; Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo
Add Flippo’s biography to your bookshelves!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:


Meet Larada Today!

My name is Larada Horner-Miller and I decided it was time to do a blog.  I have been techno-savvy for years but never done a blog.

My life today after retirement rotates around my different volunteer commitments:

Secretary – Branson-Trinchera Reunion – Annual reunion in Branson, CO every year the last Saturday in June

President & WebMaster – Albuquerque Square Dance Center (ASDC) –

Treasurer & WebMaster – Duke City Singles & Doubles Square Dance Club –

Chairperson & WebMaster – Duke City Singles & Doubles Spring Fling Square & Round Dance Festival –

Chairperson & WebMaster – Hot August Nights Square & Round Dance Festival –

Promotions Chairperson – Single Square Dancers USA (SSDUSA)

Volunteering was a big part of my life before I retired.  What is your experience with volunteering?  Make a comment below and let’s talk about it.



Albuquerque · My Thoughts · square dance

Yes, I Always Think I Can—How About You?

When you’re asked to volunteer to do something, what’s your first response: I can or I can’t? If I can’t do the big thing someone asked me, can I contribute in a small way? Or is my answer immediately, “I can’t.” It’s all in the attitude.

I just finished a weekend square and round dance festival, Duke City Singles and Doubles’ Spring Fling, and yes, I’m exhausted, but in a good way. I’ve been the chairperson of this event since 2013, was the chair from 1997 to 2000, and I have taken part on the committee for 24 years. Why?

Today when I looked around at the sheer joy on happy dancers’ faces as they twirled and spun around the dance floor, all my hard work was worth it! The rewards resounded. That’s why I volunteer!

In 1994, I attended my first Fling (that’s what we called it then) as a dancer only and caught the square dance fever. In 1995, the chairperson asked me to help on advertising, and I failed miserably because I didn’t know what I was doing. But that was a learning experience—ask questions when you don’t know!

In 1996, our club took over this festival, and I agreed to be the co-chairperson, again not knowing what I was doing. The next year I moved up to be the chairperson! People believed I could do the job, and their belief confirmed I could. I had no idea what I was doing but someone needed to step up, and I said, “Yes, I can!” The previous chairperson had put together a manual for running a festival, so I followed that for many years until I got my system in place.

 My involvement with this has gone on and on. Why continue doing it or why do it at all, you may ask. Volunteering has been core to my life for the last 25 years. I don’t hesitate; I jump in and worry about the specifics later.

I have volunteered for other activities besides square dancing, and I love the connections I’ve made with people over the years and the rewards from those activities.

My square dance outfit for the National Singles Square Dance Convention in Albuquerque, 2003

After being involved in this festival for years, three square dance girlfriends asked if I would chair the National Singles Square Dance Festival for Singles in Albuquerque in 2003. They said they would help if I headed it. They had worked with me on our local festival and liked the results. Again, I didn’t flinch, and again I had no experience at chairing a national event, so I took my time-tested knowledge from our smaller event and applied it, and we had a smashing success.

So why volunteer? Someone has to do the work—the event won’t happen without you, without me! Is it time consuming? Yes! Will you have to work with disagreeable people? Probably! But what else in life offers deep connections with people which we all crave?

I have a wealth of wonderful memories that became a byproduct of volunteering. Several women dancers sat around a table and hand painted our square dance outfits one year. We laughed and shared our lives as we painted. Our hostess dropped her paintbrush on her vest and remarked, “That’s a bird,” and it worked out fine. Today when I wear that outfit, my heart glows with those moments.

My friend, Kathi, and I stayed up until 3:30 AM one Saturday because one of our talkative club members distracted the band who was trying to put up their instruments and equipment and get home at one of the Flings. We watched this talker and tried to get him away from the band but back he went repeatedly! Whenever we recalled this, we joked about who would sit on him next year so we could get home earlier, but what a memory!

At this talkative friend’s funeral, I shared this story with his family with a laugh and a lot of love in my heart. 

I sprayed a caller in the face with Silly String at our National Square Dance Convention for singles which started a war of Silly String the whole weekend. I ended up being the biggest target. What rich memories!

Because of my involvement in this national organization, I have dear friends all over the USA—because I volunteered years ago at our local event. See what happens? The opportunities grew and grew from volunteering, and I became self-assured about my talents in organizing an event like this.

I’m tired tonight. Each year when the Spring Fling is over for another year, I look into the faces of the committee members and my co-chair and marvel at their commitment, their willingness to take part and am so deeply touched. The success unites us together as a force, and immediately the thought moves to next year’s events and what we needed to do.

Believe me, the rewarding answer when someone asks you to volunteer is “Yes, I can,” and you will never know where it will take you!

Do you volunteer? If so, where? What have been your rewards?

Check out my NEW and IMPROVED web site at

MOTHER’S DAY SPECIAL: 25% off of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memois — digital & paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Interesting posts about Flippo’s life.

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!