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Fun, fitness and mostly friendship

The Athabasca River Ramblers started in January 2016
ATHABASCA – If you need a hug, a high five, some laughs, and sometimes true love, then square dancing is where to find it. 

From the moment you walk in smiling faces and hugs greet you; a swirl of colours as the ladies in skirts floating on clouds of crinoline twirl around the floor. It’s warm and inviting and everyone is welcome to join in. 

The Athabasca River Ramblers started in January 2016, and the dances were held in the Old Train Station in Athabasca before moving to Turnabout Avenue Place halfway through 2017. 

“Melissa McLean (of Athabasca) wanted to dance two times a week,” said Mary Coleman with the Boyle Twilight Twirlers. “So, Bob (Fyfe) said ‘find a place’ and he would call.” 

Originally the Boyle square dances were the only nearby place to go and have been around since 1980. Mary and her husband Reuben have been members there almost since the beginning and the Twirlers host a weekly Sunday square dance in the Boyle Senior’s Drop-in Centre.

They also did not want to find a place to rent twice a week so McLean got her wish after finding space in the Old Train Station and the Athabasca River Ramblers were born. 

“Boyle has been a great supporter (of the Ramblers),” Mary commented. 

With dancers who attend from Donatville, Boyle, Plamondon, Atmore, Amber Valley and places in between the size of the group varies week to week, but the energy remains the same. 

Eight people are needed to form one square and no matter where you go in the world square dancing is always called in English. More than one couple even said they met on the dance floor. 

Heather and Doug Kariel of Athabasca are one of those couples. Heather has been square dancing for 50 years and Doug for 45 but they met almost 40 years ago in Calgary at a square dance. 

Heather says square dancing keeps them young. 

“Square dancers age well,” she said. “You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve danced with who are over 80.” 

Gail McQueen is the daughter of long-time caller Bob Fyfe and his wife and dancing partner Ethel. Bob has been calling for 55 years and McQueen recalls starting dancing at eight years old to attend dances with her parents.

“I remember when I was little, I’d have to go down the street to a lady’s and she’d babysit us,” McQueen laughed. “Her sons would go square dancing.” 

Originally from Smith the Fyfe’s moved to Athabasca last year. Bob even spent several years calling for the Twirlers at no cost when the club was struggling.

Mary added that the events are very casual, and people can dance in jeans at the weekly events. 

“There’s no need to invest a lot of money in dresses,” she said. 

The Ramblers hold the open dance every Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. and lessons are graciously offered. Youth are encouraged to join in making it a fun family evening and for $6 a person including refreshments it’s a great night out.