Ashford Grange sponsors multi-generational square dance

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Wed., Dec. 12, 2012
Debby and Tom Perry demonstrate their dancing skills. Photos by Kitty LeShay.
Debby and Tom Perry demonstrate their dancing skills. Photos by Kitty LeShay.

Square-dancing experts and novices came together at Knowlton Hall to hear and dance to the music of Joe LoPresti’s Farmer Joe and Country Friends Band. LoPresti, a Preston Grange member, is widely known among Grange members and country music and square-dancing aficionados.

The Dec. 8 square dance gave several young people an opportunity to enjoy their first square dance with an expert caller. “All you need to know is your right and left,” LoPresti advised.

LoPresti has been calling dances for more than 60 years and is adept at personalizing his calls and making holiday references. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” was one of his selections for the evening. When not calling dances, he lives the life of a Grange member, farming at the LoPresti family farm in Preston.

The Grange was founded in 1867 and is the oldest national agricultural organization in the United States. While the number of family farms has diminished, there are still many active Granges in Connecticut. “The Grange has become more of a community service agency, as compared to years ago when it was all about farmers,” said Joan Golden, Ashford Grange’s events planner.

Evelyn Urda, the longest-serving member at 71 years, remembers joining when she was 15. “There wasn’t much to do on a Friday night and my friends said they were having a lot of fun, so I joined,” she said. Urda has many remembrances of dances, comedy skits and musicals, along with all those people who became her friends through her association with the Grange. She sat and watched the dance, which included her great-grandson, Ty, who was learning some steps and moves from experts Tom and Debby Perry.

Tom Perry demonstrated some differences between Western and Eastern style square-dancing. He and his wife Debby are regulars at the dances around the state.” I used to follow his band around and had a ball with Joe. He won’t stop playing until he is in the grave,” Perry said.

Farmer Joe and Country Friends’ next big show will be on New Year’s Eve at the Lebanon Congregational Church at the junction of routes 207 and 87.

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