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30th Anniversary in the News!
Chi-Town Squares marks 30 years with party, award ceremony
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
Chicago's LGBTQ square dancing club, Chi-Town Squares, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary with a party and pot-luck dinner, "Take Pride," May 12 at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Andersonville.
The club began when Jerry Cohen and Ron Goodman joined forces in 1987 and put ads in the local LGBTQ newspapers to seek out more members. When the first class met in Sept. 1987 at Wellington Avenue Church on Wellington and Broadway there were about 30 people in attendance. Now the club calls Ebenezer Lutheran Church its home.
To solidify the club within the wider LGBTQ square dancing community, a delegation attended the International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs 1988 convention, "Cross Trails." The association officially accepted Chi-Town Squares as members at that convention.
Longtime member Rick Simkin ( since 1991 ) noted that many people think square dancing clubs are for performance and competition, however, that is not the case with Chi-Town Squares.
"The group participates for the fun of dancing and the pleasure of each other's company," said Simkin. "A lot of enduring friendships have started on the dance floor and even some romantic relationships. I was looking for a community activity and Chi-Town Squares seemed just right because it was social and did not involve alcohol."
"It is a fun group of folks that enjoy socializing while dancing and laughing," said longtime member Rob Sierzega. "It is a casual setting and welcoming to everyone. I joined in the fall of 1993 with my ( now deceased ) partner, Larry Burke. We knew some people in the group, and were encouraged to try it out. We had a lot of fun right away and made a lot of new friends."
One of the features of square dancing is the live caller who tells the dancers what moves to make. Simkin explained that square dancing started as a folk activity with each caller using their own calls ( moves ) so it was not standardized. Chi-Town Squares hired a live caller its first year to teach the Basic through Plus calls. Since then Advance and Challenge levels have been added to the roster. These CALLERLAB-based classes have continued to this day.
"CALLERLAB is an international organization of square dance callers that was formed to standardize the calls and group them into standard 'levels' of learning," said Simkin. "Now a square dancer who knows, say, the 'Mainstream' level, can dance at any Mainstream dance anywhere in the world."
The club hosts a "No Experience Needed Dance Party" on the first Thursday of each month and weekly dances for people who have attended the intensive weekends ( blasts ) in March and September to learn the Mainstream level. In addition to these weekly dances focusing on specific levels of achievement, the club holds seven dances so the entire group can mix and mingle with each other. During the Columbus Day weekend in October, the club holds "The Great Chicago Crossfire" for members and former members who come in from all parts of the country to reconnect with their friends.
Each year Chi-Town Squares recognizes long-time members and gives out the Eric B. Calimag Yellow Rock Award ( since 1995 ) to one or more members who have shown outstanding service to the club. The genesis for this award began when Lin Jarvis gave the club a big rock painted yellow and mounted on a plaque to use as a way to honor someone.
"Eric Calimag was one recipient of the award," said Simkin. "He died during the year that he was the Yellow Rock's awardee. Chi-Town Squares left the rock with his family, got a new Yellow Rock, and re-named the award in Eric's memory."
The previous year's award winner( s ) choose( s ) the next year's recipients. This year's award was given to Joe Kerouac at the anniversary celebration.
Upon receiving the Yellow Rock award, Kerouac said "someone needs to break this to my husband ( who was at the celebration ) that this award will be going on our dining room table." This statement elicited a lot of laughs from the crowd.
Following the awards ceremony, Kerouac told Windy City Times that the award "was a great honor and recognition for the work I have done as a board member for the past ten years. I have been square dancing since 1968 so to get an award finally is wonderful. It has been great to be a member of this club. I have met some fantastic people who have become close friends."
New board member assignments were also announced at the anniversary celebration—Jeff Hutchins ( president ), Diva Mihelic ( vice president ), John Wood ( treasurer ), Bob Siegel ( secretary ) and Penny O'Reilly ( member-at-large ).
"It is overwhelming to be taking on this new role," said Hutchins. "It is good to see the veterans of the group who no longer dance come out for this celebration and I hope the club has 30 more years."
"I have made so many wonderful friends here," said Mihelic. "This club is the center of my life. I am eager to move the club forward in my new leadership role and I also just joined the education committee. I am excited to be a liaison between the board and that committee. It will be fun to learn how to run the club."
"I hope that square dancing grows as a hobby and the club has a better presence in the Chicago LGBTQ community," said outgoing President Jim Cosenza. "This is a really diverse community of people who come from all sorts of backgrounds. I have found that being in this club is an amazing way to make friends and connect with other members of the LGBTQ community outside of a bar setting."
"I especially encourage younger people to come check out the club," said Chi-Town Squares historian Phil Davis. "Anyone is welcome to come and dance and that includes our LGBTQ allies."
Membership is $50/year and dances are $8. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford to pay.
See www.chitownsquares.org/ for more information.
Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
News! News! News!
Oct. 23, 2018 - Check out some new pages!
Oct. 11, 2018 - Check out the photos and videos from Crossfire 2018!
Lots of folks are contributing photos and videos from Crossfire this year. Getting them onto the website is an ongoing project. Check back frequently. You can find the photos and videos by clicking here!
Chi-Town member Robert Milanowski shared some great videos he’s posted on his YouTube page. You can find them on our photo gallery or on his own YouTube site!
A big thank you to everyone who has contributed photos and videos! Keep them coming!
Oct. 10, 2018 - A Facebook Post From Jeff Hutchins
Dear Crossfire Committee!
Chi Town Squares is very grateful! The board extends a heartfelt thank you. The board knows how labor intensive Crossfire is, and we are so very grateful for yet another great success this year!
As board members, many of us have served on that committee, so we know how much effort is involved and we congratulate you on the success of this years Crossfire! It was one of the best in recent memory. A good time was had by all. I received many compliments and I made sure that the credit was not mine or the boards. All credit goes to the Crossfire Committee! Thank you all so very much!
The Board is also grateful to Rob and David. Your recent years of leadership is appreciated and the board is grateful for your hard work and dedication. The board also offers congratulations to Mark and Julia as they take the reins of leadership of the Crossfire Committee. Our confidence in your leadership is assured. Thanks for stepping up.
Congratulations and much Thanks to all Crossfire committee members!
The Board of Chi Town Squares
July 14, 2018 - Thursday Night Dancing Changes
The Thursday night format is changing! Plus dancers are looking for more floor time. Thursday nights will now include 3 Plus tips, patter only, throughout the night. Plus tips will be interspersed with Mainstream tips. Mainstream tips will continue having patter and singing calls. Caller Development will continue from 7-7:30pm. We hope to see you on the dance floor!
May 30, 2018 - Chi-Town Squares 30th Anniversary in the News!
Check out this great article in the Windy City Times about Chi-Town Squares and our 30th Anniversary by clicking here!
Apr 29, 2018 - Chi-Town Squares Summer Schedule!
We dance an abbreviated schedule from June through August. We return to weekly dancing during the second week of September.
No Experience Needed Dance Party!
Thursday, June 7, 7pm-9pm
No July Dance Party
Thursday August 2, 7pm-9pm
Mainstream and Plus!
Thursday, June 21, 7pm-9:30pm
Thursday, July 12, 7pm-9:30pm
Thursday, July 26, 7pm-9:30pm
Thursday, August 23, 7pm-9:30pm
A2 and C1!
Monday, June 4, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Monday, June 18, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Monday, July 16, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Monday, July 30, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Monday, August 6, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Monday, August 20, 7:30pm-9:30pm
Feb 13, 2018 - Members Section of the new Website
The Members section of the new website is not yet operational. We're working on it and there is a projected completion date of of December 30. If anyone needs member database information or other document information please write us at email@example.com.
Feb 7, 2018 - Thursday Night Dancing Changes
A change in the Thursday night format came out of a conversation during the February Callers and Board Members Meeting.
7-7:30pm, Caller Development. Our callers will call to dance speed, so come on in at 7pm, help our new callers hone their craft and join the fun!
7:30-9pm, Mainstream Dancing. Our featured callers will call Mainstream.
9-9:30pm, Plus Dancing. Our featured caller will call two Plus tips, so that our Plus dancers can get more experience.
Jan 30, 2018 - The Heat at Ebenezer
Please wear extra layers whenever temperatures dip below 30 degrees! The boiler is working at partial capacity. The boiler and the building are old. Boiler replacement this year is not an option. We continue to be in contact with Ebenezer. We will keep you updated with information as it becomes available.
Jan 29, 2018 - Photos and Media for the New Website
If you have any Chi-Town Squares photos you'd like to share please contact us with photos as attachments in a JPEG or PNG format.
Do you have time to scan and digitize some of our historical photographs so that we can put them on our website?
Could you help with graphic design and editing of our letterhead? Give it some thought. Maybe you have some time to give!
Weather Cancellation Information
Call and listen to the outgoing voicemail recordings for cancellation information.
The outgoing message will announce an event cancellation. Events are not cancelled if you receive a standard greeting.
Monday Night Dancing call Rob Sierzega 773-338-0436
Thursday Night Dancing call John Wood 312-375-1272
Weekend Dancing and Blasts call John Wood at 312-375-1272
Chi-Town Squares is Chicago's LGBTQ* Modern Square Dance Club
Visit our payments page to renew your membership or donate to Chi-Town Squares! Support modern square dancing!