By Keith Gushard
Another year of competition equaled more blue ribbons for the Wild Country Dancers square dance team Monday night at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
This is the third year in a row the team has earned the honors in the square dance exhibition/competition at the annual show in Harrisburg, and the second year in a row both sets of dancers from the team earned blue ribbons.
The ribbons are well-deserved, according to Brenda Schmidt, who directs the team along with Don Yosten, a professional square dance caller from Erie.
“The kids practiced really hard and they looked really sharp when they were out there,” Schmidt said Tuesday.
At the state competition, the Danish system of judging is used, Schmidt said. The Danish system lets every team start with a perfect score, and points are deducted for each mistake that is observed by the three judges. Blue ribbons are given for superior performance, red ribbons for excellent performance, and white ribbons for a good performance, Schmidt said.
Team members also took pride in their accomplishment.
“It was super exciting to pull it off three years in a row,” said Gary Shidemantle, 17, a team member all three years and a senior at Cambridge Springs High School. “We’ve come a long way.”
Earning the blue ribbons took lots of practice at Wild Country Dance Hall in Saegertown, starting back in September with 20 area youngsters, ranging in age from 7 to 19.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve done, and all our hard work paid off,” said Alysia Walczak, 18, of Cambridge Springs.
“You learn something new every practice,” said Brooke Caldwell, 14, of Cambridge Springs, a second-year member of the team.
“It’s great spending time with everyone,” said Sarah Watson, 14, another second-year member from Cambridge Springs. “We all get along well.”
Brothers Justin Schmidt, 14, and Josh Schmidt, 11, of Conneautville, both three-year members of the team, said it’s not only time and effort put in by team members, but by leaders Yosten and Brenda Schmidt, who is their cousin.
“Mr. Yosten helped us learn all the new moves we had to learn,” said Josh Schmidt.
One of the youngest members of the team, Aubrey Spellman, 9, a first-year member from Albion, said she got a real kick out of being part of the team.
“I was doing line dancing and it was fun,” she said. “I heard about this square dancing team and I wanted to try it. I want to keep doing it.”
The team also had surprises for both Yosten and Ed Sauers of Wild Country Dance Hall of Saegertown. After their ribbon-winning performances, the team held up banners in the ring honoring each man.
Wild Country Dance Team isn’t resting on its laurels, though.
“We’re already making plans for next year,” said Brenda Schmidt.
Wild Country Square Dance Team
The Wild Country Dancers Square Dance Team (1 and 2) competed in the open age group at the Pennsylvania Farm Show’s square dance competition, as it has members with ages 7 to 19. The Pennsylvania Farm Show has three age divisions: Division A is for those who are under age 17; Division B is for those 15 to 25 years old; and Division C is any age.
The Wild Country Dancers square dance team had two sets of dancers in competition.
Set 51: Dalton Marsteller, Becca Rendulic, Kenny Shugerts, Emily Merritt, Josh Schmidt, Sarah Caldwell, Justin Schmidt, Alexandra Merritt, Nolan Schmidt and Brooke Caldwell.
Set 52: Gary Lee Shidemantle, Alysia Walczak, Kameron Willis, Courtney Hess, Nathan Walczak, Aubrey Spellman, Haley Jo Hess, Elizabeth Foust, Kaitlyn Willis and Kierstin Kiel.
There were five couples in each of the sets with only four couples competing at a time for each of the five songs. As such, each couple sat out for one song.