The first annual Texas Swing Festival at Cain Center is now history. The Saturday event had something for just about everyone, regardless of interest or age.
Key organizers believe it was successful enough to make repeat performances.
The dancing competition was one example. There was an adult competition for those 16 to 55 years of age, and a senior or Silver class for those 56 years of age and over.
Shane Tindle and his date, Emma Perry won the first place trophy in the adult division competition.
Tindle, 23, who graduated from Baylor University two weeks ago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting Information Systems, now works for Hewlett Packard in Houston.
He received information from his parents in Martin’s Mill that the competition was about to begin.
“I’ve been dancing for five years, and I plan to dance until day I die.” he said.
Perry, who is from Italy, Texas, and is currently a junior at Baylor University, is enrolled in a university scholars honors program, studying mathematics. She plans to earn her doctorate in applied mathematics.
Both Tindle and Perry came to the area for the competition, and to visit his family, and go waterskiing over the weekend in Lake Athens.
“I like doing things to music because I enjoy music,” Perry said. “In swing, you are a part of the music.”
Tindle said the music used for the 5-couple competition was swing dance with a little country accent. He gauged it to be “40s and 50-ish.”
Both Tindle and Perry are members of the Swing Dance Society, yet this is their first competition.
Tindle described his love of music in a humorous way.
“I like making a fool of myself, and having people say I did well,” he said.
Second place honors in the Adult Division went to J. and Teena Frank, while third place honors went to Danae Rockwood and Gordon Mayhall.
In the Senior or Silver Division, Duane and Dianna Stevens hit a gold mine, taking home the trophy, while being the only couple enrolled in the competition.
Dianna, 72, and Duane, 71, live in a rural area about five miles from Athens.
This is their first competition, except for one in which they participated “for fun” aboard a Carnival Cruise ship last year near Jamaica.
Perhaps this sparked their interest for entering a real competition close to home.
“We found out about it (the local competition) in the Athens paper in their daily listings,” she said. “A lot of people our age don’t dance, especially fast.”
But the Stevens’ fascination with dancing is well beyond competitions.
“We try to go dancing once a week. We dance at the senior center on Highway 31 by Athens, and we go to Canton at the Farm Bureau Building with the Van Zandt Senior Citizens Club,” Dianna said.
She said her appreciation for music and her love for dancing was probably encouraged by her profession, one in which she taught piano lessons for 55 years. She and Duane have been married for 52 of those years.
“When we first met, my husband didn’t know how to dance, and I said if he was going to marry me, he would need to know how to dance.”
While the dancers performed their activity in the comfort of the air conditioned Cain Center, a number of vendors set up shop behind the facility in temperatures in the 90s.
Jerry Hester of Murchison was one who set up his business, Toyboxes Plus. By 4 p.m., he had sold about $150 worth of merchandise, including artwork consisting of artwork photos put on tin.
However, he was optimistic, saying that for a first-time event, it was doing well.
“If the venders were inside, it might do a little better, but it’s going alright,” he said.
Cain Center Executive Director Marsha Colbert said there were 25 venders who set up exhibits on the center’s lawn.
There were other attractions, such as lectures to inquiring audiences from swing experts about their professions. One of these lectures was given by Dennis Ludiker and the Marshall Ford Swing Band.
Event organizer Pat Gresham said in the late afternoon that the crowd in attendance was great.
“We had a lot of good compliments, and good things said about the set up and how it is put together,” he said.
It was at about 9 p.m., when Executive Director Marsha Colbert said the results were excellent.
“I think for our first time out, we had a very good turnout. We are pleased with the folks that came out and spent the day with us,” she said. “And, there were those who really did literally spend the entire day with us.”
Colbert said she knew of those who attended from not only Athens, but also from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
“We had a really great day,” she concluded.
The event was undertaken as a benefit for the Cain Center. Colbert said, “It is way too early to guess about how much income was brought in.”
“We believe it will grow in popularity and size when we come back with this next year,” she said. “We have great expectations.”
She thanked all the sponsors and the support of the board of directors.
“Without them, we couldn’t do this,” she said. “The community just came together to help us do this.”
Colbert said the timing was to coincide with the Fidder’s activities on the courthouse square earlier at the end of the week.
“We are, in effect, extending Fiddler’s into another day,” she said. “People could come to town and extend their stay. We need for them to see what we as a community have to offer.”