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Y’all Come! To The Big Barn Dance!

October 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Getting ready for the dancers...

Getting ready for the dancers…

Every year, the first September weekend after Labor Day means something special to  fans of country music: The Big Barn Dance! For the past 11 years, Michael Hearne, musician and recording artist, organizes a musical extravaganza in northern New Mexico with fifty or so of his closest friends. This past weekend, September 5, 6 and 7th, was no exception.

Michael Hearne's Big Barn Dance, Taos, NMThe event started off on Thursday with a lineup of eleven groups or musicians, including Thom Shepherd, Susan Gibson, Taos’ own favorite son and rising star, Max Gomez and Hearne’s South by Southwest. Performances started at 2 pm and continued until midnight.

Day Two brought a series of 14 different entertainers, including Bob Livingston who wrote many songs for Jerry Jeff Walker over the years in addition to playing guitar on his albums, Chuck Cannon and the Zane Williams Band. I’m told performances continued until well past midnight.

Terry and I attended the Barn Dance for the first time on September 8th. Saturday morning started with free Two-Step dance lessons from Michael’s daughter, Sarah from 10 until 11:15 am. She was able to marshal a group of some 100 or so strangers with limited experience into pairs of dancers in that short time. She started by having us walk in a circle to the beat of her father’s music, then progressed to the two step cadence and eventually we were circling the empty cafeteria, counterclockwise, in an orderly and rhythmic fashion. The official “Barn Dance” was held Saturday night.

The alternate dance floor

The alternate dance floor

Entertainment continued throughout the day and included The Bill Hearne Trio (Michael’s father, also a recording artist in his own right), the Shake Russell Trio and Donnie Richmond and the Rifters. The evening culminated with South by Southwest playing for the big barn dance. While most of the performances were held “concert-style”, with the wooden dance floor covered with chairs for seating and dancing on a nearby stage, for the final performance, the floor was cleared until overtaken by dancers.

This was truly an all-ages event. Attendees ranged in age from about six months of age into the 80′s and above. As the night cooled off, small bonfires were lit to keep the non-dancers warm. The dancers had no trouble staying warm.

Michael Hearne and son, Travis

Michael Hearne and son, Travis

While the music made it difficult to stop your feet from tapping, dancing in the tent was an exercise in deft movement. With upwards of 200 people trying to dance at one time during the first hour of the event, the floor became quite crowded and it was difficult to move without hitting someone or being struck by couples dancing past. By about 9:30, the floor had cleared so we were more able to practice the moves we had learned that morning, however. To that end, Michael has promised that next year, the dance floor will be twice the size of the one this year and states he will have the largest tent in New Mexico.

Campers were welcome to stay the weekend in the upper parking lot.

Campers were welcome to stay the weekend in the upper parking lot.

Also, while many of the resorts and hotels in Taos Ski Valley offered very attractive specials for the weekend that often included a weekend pass to the Barn Dance, campers and RVs were welcome to park for the weekend in the upper lot of the Ski Valley parking area. Numerous attendees took advantage of this offer. If you’re looking for a great weekend of musical entertainment, mark off the first weekend in September, 2014 for the Big Barn Dance weekend up at the Taos Ski Valley, NM!

If you’d rather find your own home away from home for your trip to New Mexico, browse Woodall’s listings of New Mexico Campgrounds.

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