CHI-TOWN SQUARES

Our History

The Chi-Town Squares was formed as a Club in 1986/87 by Jerry Cohen and Ron Goodman.  Jerry Cohen was a well known leader in Chicago's gay community and helped start many organizations. Ron Goodman had learned to square dance in Seattle before he moved to Chicago. He was a DJ in various dance bars around the city. He worked at CAROL'S on Wells street at the time. David Boyer managed CAROL'S at the time and heard of Jerry's wish to start a square dance Club which he told Ron about. With this start, CAROL'S, the last large disco palace in Chicago, became the meeting place of many of the members of this new Square Dance Club.

ctsfirstclass.jpg

After advertising in the local gay newspapers about thirty students formed the first class in September 1987. Classes were held at the Wellington Avenue Church at Wellington and Broadway. A live caller was hired to teach the class which learned Basic, mainstream, and Plus the first year. A delegation from the Club went to the 1988 IAGSDC (International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs) convention, Cross Trails in the Desert, in Phoenix where they were officially accepted into the Association.

Chi-Town Squares has continued to grow in numbers, in the quality of dancing, and as hosts for dances ever since. In September 1989 the Club hosted its first fly-in, The Great Chicago Crossfire. That Fall the Club started its first Advanced level class. Also, that Fall, after some persuading, the Club convinced Lin Jarvis to teach the Basic, Mainstream, and Plus level class.  Lin taught all the BMP classes and taught the Advanced classes for many years. He and his wife Barb became very big supporters of the Club and helped us be accepted into the straight square dance community. With Lin’s sudden death in June 2002, the Club lost a great friend.  John Oldfield, our own Club Caller, took over teaching the Advanced classes. In the Fall of 1995, the Club offered its first Challenge Level class taught by Saundra Bryant. Saundra is a very well known international square dance caller and also a big supporter of the Club. 

Our present home is Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1640 W. Foster Avenue in Chicago. Most dances and all classes are held there. Our current club callers include Sandie Bryant, Arlene Kaspik, Michael Maltenfort, John Oldfield, Bobby Poyner, Therron Ricks, Kate Reed, and Mark Seaman!

Every year since 1988 a delegation from the Club has attended the annual International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs (IAGSDC) convention. Between forty and fifty usually attend. In 1991, Ron Bast, a board member at the time, decided Chi-Town should host a convention and submitted a bid in for the 1995 convention. After much discussion the Club agreed to go forward with the idea and the ground work was set. A board of five members formed “Tip The Cow, Inc.” to start planning for the convention, ‘Track 2 Chicago’. Two years in the planning and a mountain of work done by many members all came together over Memorial Day weekend 1995. Around 1,100 square dancers from the fifty or so IAGSDC member Clubs came to celebrate gay and lesbian square dancing for three days. To make the Convention even more memorable, the hotel was shared by all the men and women in town for the International Mr. Leather Contest. The 'Leather Tip' was the largest ever! The twelfth annual IAGSDC Convention came off very well and the entire Club had a great time hosting the international Gay and Lesbian Square Dance community. In the spring of 1996, Chi-Town sponsored the second of its ‘Campy Dancing Weekends’, held at a Lutheran church camp, an hour west of Chicago.

Chicago hosted its second IAGSDC Convention in July 2010. Five members formed “Fruit Cup, Inc.” and spent six years putting together “Chi-Town Shakedown”. Over 1,000 folks joined us at the Chicago Hilton for a weekend of fun and dancing. Our Fun badge tour of five busloads of square dancers toured the city and danced at Northerly island, the middle of Halsted Street in front of the Center on Halsted, Chicago’s famous gay beach – Osterman Beach, and ended at the historic Boathouse in Humboldt Park. 

In other areas the Club has grown, too. Many members of the Club now dance regularly with the Recyclers, a straight Advanced & Challenge level Club. This Club brings in quality callers from across North America to call every second and fourth Friday of the month except in the summer. Being accepted as a part of this group of dancers was one of the first big steps Club members took into the other dancing community. In the Fall of 1995, the MCASD (Metropolitan Chicago Association of Square Dancers is the regional square dancers association of over fifty local Clubs) accepted Chi-Town into their ranks. A hearty few Chi-Town members have moved up and are taking lessons or dancing at the C3a, C3b and C-4 level with members of other MCASD Clubs. 

We currently have 100 members. Every first Thursday is our “no experience required” Dance Party, from 7pm to 9pm. We offer Classes once or twice a year, usually in a weekend BLAST format of intensive learning & laughing! We will continue a weekly Advanced & C-1 dance on Monday nights, and a Mainstream & Plus dance on Thursday nights. We will offer monthly all-level dances on weekends. These dances will be posted on our website calendar as the dates become available. The Club also holds fundraising events to raise money for the Club and various community concerns. Chi-Town offers an alternative social activity for those in Chicago's lesbian and gay community. Dancing is a great way to meet people and burn off a few calories!

There have been twenty-eight ‘Great Chicago Crossfire’ Fly-ins since 1989 with over 80 dancers in attendance the last few years. The Great Chicago Crossfire is held over Columbus Day Weekend, Friday through Sunday, in October. We host a weekend filled with fun activities, including 2 rooms for dancing Mainstream through Challenge, a fabulous pot luck dinner, an out-of-this-world silent auction, mind-blowing calling, impressive dancing, a legendary catered Sunday Brunch, and a weekend of friendship. Check out the latest Crossfire information from our Home page!

2019-03 Rob Sierzega


Tenth Anniversary Poem

by Steve Wellman 

Though I haven't seen much glory yet
As the club's self-proclaimed poet laureate
My humble ego was greatly enlarged
When I was approached by the one's in charge
Who ask of me if I would say
A word or two to you today
And since we're here to celebrate
I'm happy to accommodate
I asked myself "what should I say
To make this celebration gay
'Cause happy thoughts I wish to give
I don't want to be negative
So since discretion rules the day
There's quite a bit I cannot say
"Although it would be so inviting
To talk about the petty fighting
And bickering among the board
These things" I said "must be ignored
It should not be among my jobs
To criticize the level snobs
Or those who push like macho men
Or need a shower now and then
I will not bitch when it's my turn
About those who will never learn
Of thinks Advanced is not enough
When they can hardly get though Plus
I can cannot tell them what I think
Of that putrid shade of pink
At times it is a mystery
If I am dancing with a he or she
But it would fill my soul with dread
To talk of this to them" I said
"Whiner whining over money
Callers jokes that are not funny
And Gary's little indiscretion
That thing I would never mention
I'll have to button up my lip
For though its just a Mainstream tip
Regroup is the most common call
These things I won't bring up at all
The vicious rumors we hear so much
A subject I would not touch
I said to me "Do not project
An image that we won't respect
Like how on most Sunday's without fail
While pounding down ice teas on sale
We square up in a drunken trance
And fumble through another dance
A tip we've heard a dozen times
And we break down on 'bend the line'
I also said to me "You hush
About those friends of Mary Jane Rush
The new class starting in the fall
Is well attended I recall
They're checking out the brand new meat"
I said "Now that I can't repeat
The club's disease I cannot say
Is hepatitis B or A
And I won't even start to speak
About the cliques we see each week
And I won't even start to say
Our styling is an awful way
That we do 'Sides face grand square'
to grind an ax would not be fair"
But oh my how the tongues would wag
If I ignored our things in drag
And please forgive me if I quote
From something I already wrote
"The SheDevils without regret
Exude hair spray and body sweat"
But let's not look just at the smell
Each name starts with the letter 'L'
Each SheDevil is heaven sent
And cosmetically incontinent
Applying make-up till its gone
And drunken Leda on the lawn
And the Honky Tonk Queen, Oh, yes it's true
That they've produced not one but two
And both times how they made us proud
'Cause they weren't pulled out of the crowd
No, they were contestants in the show
Unlike a certain Hamm we know
Now all along we've all been told
That Chi-Town Squares is ten years old
But we were not members formally
In the IAGSDC
Until 1988
And so in closing I will state
Although it is inopportune
We're doing this one year too soon
So I propose we find a chair
And do this thing again next year