The Friendly FolkDancers Visit Friends in South Central U.S.A.
by Ellen Brooks
Tour members Bonnie Beverstock, Barbara Houghton, David Houghton, Peli Lee, and Lorene Ludy, along with co-coordinators Nancy Schofield and Ellen Brooks, participated in the tour to the South Central Yearly Meeting area of the U. S. A. from January 1 to 14, 2001. The tour began in Dallas with an enthusiastic audience of 30 Quakers, Unitarians, and other friends. This was our most diverse group of participants and they all participated. The potential of being scattered over the huge Dallas area was circumvented by the consideration of our contact person in arranging for our host homes and for the practice/performance site to be west of the downtown area.
In Hope, AR, our second stop, we were all hosted in one home, which gave us time to become bonded as a group while we shared with the small Caddo Friends Worship Group, attenders of which come from as much as two hours away. We were happy that the residual effects of their Christmas ice storm had mostly been dealt with by the time we arrived.
Next stop was the Shreveport (LA) Lutheran Church, where the one known Quaker in that city attends with her husband, the president of the congregation. The 35 Lutherans were an appreciative audience and even became excited about the new form of the “I Want to Be a Quaker” Quaker Quest Game we had originated on the drive
south. We danced the Bunny Hop to “Lord of the Dance,” instigated by the teenagers. North to Little Rock on Monday: We danced in a Presbyterian church, the congregation of which began as a house church and continues to emphasize the arts, leading to a racially well-integrated group. The potluck was at the Quaker Meetinghouse. Although the contact person had advertised widely, the attendance at the program was light, leading us once again to wonder how better to get the word out about the content of our ministry.
Our day off was largely absorbed by the meeting about, and the purchase of, a new sound system for The Friendly FolkDancers. Since we’d needed to borrow one for the previous three performances when the FFD system we’d brought with us failed to work well, the group decided it was time to buy one for the whole organization. We rewarded ourselves for our hard work by spending an hour at Pinnacle Peak State Park near Little Rock. Later in Fayetteville, AR, we shared a Thai meal and ice cream before dispersing to our hosts.
Wednesday brought us to a nursing home with about 50 in the audience in the afternoon, followed by a program on the University of Arkansas campus in the evening after a mid-week Meeting for Worship with the local Friends.
On to Oklahoma . . .
On we drove to Hominy, OK, where we were greeted by a sign at the Friends Meetinghouse: “Welcome Folkdancers, 7 pm Thursday.” Our program was across the street from the Osage Reservation and was attended by both Native Americans and others. The pastor of the meeting is also a university teacher of German and active in the Osage community, the history of which he shared with us.
On our way out of town on Friday, we enjoyed the many murals and sculptures with Native American themes. Stopping at a jewelry and art store for postcards, we met the owner, who is also the creator of many of these pieces of art. A second stop at the Osage Indian Museum in Pawhuska helped us understand more of the history and current circumstances of the Osage Nation.
In Tulsa, our program site was one of the two interracial churches in the city (the other being the Oral Roberts church). We began with about 12 people in the audience, but 10 young people joined us partway through and added loads of enthusiasm to the participation dancing. After hearing the story of the Green County (Tulsa) Monthly Meeting, all of the tour members spent the night at the retreat house next to the church. Our Quaker contacts joined us for early Meeting for Worship before our departure on Saturday morning.
. . . and Back to Texas
The last Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business of the tour took place in the first Texas store of our favorite ice cream chain. Evaluation of this tour and recommendations for future tours occupied most of the agenda.
The staff of the Fort Worth retirement center, where we gave our last program of the tour, were somewhat reticent upon our arrival, since their Activity Director was not on duty. However, they warmed up as they saw us all pitch in with setting up for the program, as we always do. The audience of 45 people, including a few Quakers, was happy to watch our performance although few joined in on the game and participation dancing. We hastened to pack up for the last time, say our good-byes, and set out for the homes of our hosts in Fort Worth and Dallas. These helpful folks delivered us to airports and the Amtrak station in both cities, before and after Meetings for Worship, depending on our individual schedules.
We enjoyed the tour and one another so much that we held a reunion of all the Wisconsin members of the group (we missed you, Peli) in March. We highly recommend that to other tour groups when possible. ¯