The World's Biggest Square Dance
at Baddeck Arena,
Baddeck, NS
(12 October 2004)

One of the biggest ongoing traditions in Cape Breton is the square dance. Nearly every town on the island has its own little dance hall, which is used at least once a week. In fact, every area of the island even has its own dances that are taught year after year to people of all ages.

Of course, this tradition is something Cape Bretoners love to share with people from away, so every year, they hold the World's Biggest Square Dance on the last day of Celtic Colours. Since this was my first year at the festival, I went to venues that were recommended by friends who had gone before, and this was one that everyone talked about, so I thought I better go.

I knew it was going to be a fun night when I walked into the hockey arena and saw Burton MacIntyre behind the microphone, calling out the steps. For those of you who have never met Burton, he is a newly turned 64-year-old who is full of energy and is always ready to pull someone onto the dance floor. If there is music playing, his feet are moving, and he'll get you moving, too! This is why I knew that if I didn't have fun at the dance, it was my own fault.

Not only did they pick the right caller for the dances, but they picked the right musicians, too. The list included Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton, Jerry Holland and Marion Dewar, Glenn Graham, Paul MacNeil and Tracey Dares, John Arcand, Jim Payne and Fergus O'Byrne, Harem Scarem, Majorstuen, Chris Norman, Daniel Lapp, J.P. Cormier, Sandy MacIntyre and Samantha Robichaud. Even people who didn't want to dance could enjoy the fantastic music.

The emcees for the night were Howie and Buddy MacDonald. The pair was hilarious. They were cracking jokes at each other that had the dancers rolling. They, alone, could have probably done a show there, but it wasn't about the jokes ... OK, maybe it was a little, but it was more about the dancing.

The people seemed to love everyone who played. I know I did. I could not believe it when I heard Chris Norman play "Tullochgorm" on the flute! The crowd loved it. This was followed by some reels, which got people out on the floor.

People also really enjoyed Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton. As soon as people heard that they were up to play, the dance floor was so full that there was hardly any room to dance! Glenn Graham, Paul MacNeil and Tracey Dares had the same effect. Majorstuen did, too. This group, from Norway, was a huge hit. I overheard someone say, "We have to dance to them. They play fantastic polkas," and they did. People loved every minute of it.

If you ever get the chance to go to Celtic Colours, go to the square dance. If you have the energy, you can dance until 1 in the morning! Otherwise, there's always the festival club....

- Rambles
written by Kaitlin Hahn
published 8 January 2005

Visit the Celtic Colours website.