Barn In The USA—Celebrating New Years Eve With a Rip-Roarin’ Barn Dance • By Jeff Putnam

by MBIP


On the weekends, I’m going to have contributing writers and photographers doing the posts here. It’ll give me a little break to get ready for next week and I feel it’ll give the blog a more varied voice. Today’s contributing writer is Jeff Putnam, you can see his photo and bio here. Okay, put on your dancing shoes and take it away, Jeff!

Humorous Chillicothe PC.jpg

In my little hometown of Chillicothe (Mayberry on the prairie with a dash of My Name is Earl), we've started our own New Years Eve tradition. We celebrate a day early with our Aussie friends down under with a rip-roarin' barn dance.

I know it's not the wanton orgy of food, drink, revelry, mayhem, football and Carson Daly that is standard routine for most ordinary citizens, but good clean fun seems to suit us and the Shore Acres Clubhouse is packed for this event on December 30th. People bring baked goods to snack on for sugary dance energy and there's a big jug of cool water for hydration.

  This is a 1923 Postcard of what is now the Shore Acres Clubhouse. It was originally called, "The Peoria Automobile Club."

This is a 1923 Postcard of what is now the Shore Acres Clubhouse. It was originally called, "The Peoria Automobile Club."

Barn dances are not uncommon in Chillicothe thanks to the Hicks family and friends who organize, call the dances, and form The Rusty Pickup Band. People of all types, ages, and abilities come on a regular basis to these shindigs. Once you come, listen to the lively music, and are pulled out onto the dance floor, you know you're coming back.

The Rusty Pickup Band consists of Peggy Hicks on piano, Jim Hicks on acoustic guitar when he's not calling dances, daughter Emmy Hicks on fiddle, and a mandolin player and doghouse bass player who both wish to remain anonymous. Emmy has played with her family since she was young, but went off to Julliard School of Music in New York City to refine her fiddle chops. Now she lives out East and has become an accomplished classical violinist, but that fortunately hasn't ruined her for barn dances.

  Jim and Emmy Hicks, father and daughter members of the Rusty Pickup Band.

Jim and Emmy Hicks, father and daughter members of the Rusty Pickup Band.

For the Australian New Years Barn Dance, people are encouraged to dress Aussie bush-style and some of the dances and music are from down under. Mostly though it's couples in fours, eights, or ringing the entire ballroom performing called dances like The Train Wreck, Bottoms Up, Ninepin, Snakes and Ladders, The Demented Seagull, Suicide Square, and my favorite dance name, A year in the Life of a Penguin. The names give you a vague visual sense of the unique nature of each dance. And all you have to do is perform what the caller tells you and join in the mayhem.

The highlight of my night was playing a borrowed didgeridoo, an instrument native to the Australian Aborigines, during the playing of the unofficial Aussie national anthem "Waltzing Matilda."

  Jeff using all his lung power on the didgeridoo (insert your own bong joke here.)

Jeff using all his lung power on the didgeridoo (insert your own bong joke here.)

I hope your New Years Eve was as lively and fun as mine in Mayberry. Social dancing is big grin fun, mildly aerobic and generally is a great alternative to lounging on the couch or being hunched over a keyboard, which I would probably be doing on December 30th.

  Jeff with friends Paula and Linda taking a short break from the festivities at the barn dance. Linda is the owner of the didgeridoo.

Jeff with friends Paula and Linda taking a short break from the festivities at the barn dance. Linda is the owner of the didgeridoo.

Stick to your New Years Eve routine and enjoy. I'll take mine a day early, with plenty of time left over for some big city debauchery while the ball drops.