What better way to utilize Iowa’s beautiful barns than to bring people from many different backgrounds together? Craig Arians and Marv Junk have been hosting annual barn dances at Anderson’s Barn for the past three years in order to do just that.
Domestic and international students from Cornell and Coe College have been attending these events with domestic and international students from Kirkwood Community College and Mount Vernon High School, along with many local families.
This fantastic event brings people of all different ages, races, and lifestyles together under a disco ball in the middle of a beautiful farm, and creates wonderful memories and lasting connections. It was especially created with the international students in mind as a fun-filled community event to help get them acclimated to their new living environment by meeting new people and experiencing Iowa culture.
The square dancing experience is not a novelty for just the international students though.
Many other students had never been to a barn dance until this event, and thoroughly enjoyed the new experience. A member of Cornell’s Slick Shoes club, transfer student John Bendewald (17), revealed that he loves learning new dances. He said, “I just think that dancing is a really great way to bring the community together.”
Square dancing especially is a very social dance, as the constant rotation allows, and almost forces, socialization with many different people. Though many people were initially dancing with complete strangers, there was a friendly feeling in the air by the end of the night, as if everyone had all known each other for longer than just a few hours.
Senior student Thao Luu (16) has been to two of these barn dances during her time at Cornell. Of the event, she said, “I enjoy the dance every time I go. I think it’s a very fun activity, and it’s a great opportunity to meet with new people and have great fun.”
Many of the attendees were from local families. A local named Marci Schmitt spoke of her husband, Jeff, who was the coordinator for foreign exchange students at Mount Vernon High School for three years. When she and her husband host foreign exchange students for Mount Vernon High School, they bring them to the event. “It’s a great venue and a fun time,” said Schmitt.
The locals enjoy this event just as much as the students. Arians even offers rides to Anderson’s barn, as do other locals. Luu said, “They have been extremely enthusiastic about us having a wonderful experience!”
Organizer Craig Arians was pleased with how the dance turned out. He said, “Marv Junk and the Andersons get the credit for putting everything on and allowing use of the barn. It was the best student turn out yet. Lots of fun.”
The enthusiastic caller, who directed the dancing activity, taught many different variations of the square dance, and the live band playing constantly throughout the night seemed to never tire. After a few high energy dances, the lights were dimmed, and dancers cooled down with a romantic waltz under the light of the disco ball.
The event combined local and international culture to create a truly memorable night.
Ujjesa Dhanak, Staff Writer