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”:

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~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:

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · Writing

How Do You Cut Any of Marshall Flippo’s Stories?

Scissors to cut stories

If you knew Marshall Flippo, you know he wiled you with his stories and he had many—not surprising with the longevity of his 91 years! So, after 40+ hours of interviews, stories galore and 258,000+ words, I faced the dilemma of cutting some of his stories as I prepare the manuscript to be published, but which ones?

Early on in this project, Flip told me he wanted to tell stories about his caller/cuer friends and include them in his biography—an interesting reflection of him. He saw himself through his relationships.

So, originally, we made a list of seventy-one names of callers, cuers and dancers, and it was amazing to listen to how he listed them. After Flip identified the names that came to him easily, he geographically traveled the United States and added to the list, saying, “northern California, northern California. Around and Around. I thank I’ll have a funny story for each one of them.”

That was the criteria—a funny story! So he eliminated some of the names based on that criteria.

Next, he moved to those who called frequently at Kirkwood Lodge where he called for six months out of the year for 42 years. Then Flip moved to his home state of Texas to add more names. Next, he went to “around St. Louis, and oh, Memphis, Memphis, Memphis!”

Regularly he instructed me on how the chapters should be set up, “That’s going to be quite a few in a chapter—headline like Gary Shoemake. The next one would be Ken Bower.”

As we progressed down the list, Flip moved west to Reno and Mesa. Then he jumped back east to Chicago, then East Coast, North Carolina, and then down the East Coast, Alabama and Georgia.

At this point he emphasized, “Put Georgia down thar. I have a story about Georgia.” Be ready for this hilarious one included in the book. He returned to Texas and listed his mentors and dear friends there. He headed to East Texas and then New Mexico, over to Arizona. Then he went south and northwest.

Quickly Flip announced, “I’m down in Houston again.” He added from San Antonio, Amarillo, Lubbock. This went on for weeks!

After we compiled this list, we went back through it, and Flip told his stories, crossed off some names and added some. Again, I saw the importance of relationships to this man.

When Flip first stated he had a list of callers he wanted to tell stories about, with a snicker, he added, “I have another list but it’s short: Callers I’ve Slept With!” I gasped when he said that but laughed when he told me the story. You’ll have to look for who that is in his biography.

Always involved in the layout of his biography, Flippo later requested I separate out the stories and have a section at the beginning of the book, “Before Marshall Flippo was born in Tuscola, Texas,” identifying the callers who have passed away and had helped him, so these people and their stories hold a premier place at the beginning of his biography.

So, back to my dilemma of cutting stories—I’m still deciding which stories will be in the book, and which will land up on the website, but it doesn’t matter because if you purchase his biography, you’ll have access to all of them.

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about Flippo’s life.

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!

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