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Square dancers do-si-do into fitness, fun
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Members of Turlock Steppin Pards and Merced Boots and Slippers got together at a party barn in Atwater for a night of square dancing on Jun. 28. The two groups are both recruiting new members in September for their weekly square dancing classes. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN/ The Journal

The members of Steppin’ Pards are keeping the American tradition of square dancing alive with lively dance steps, expert calling and just-for-fun costumes. The dance group has been kicking their heels up for 58 years now, and they are hoping that new members will join in on the fun this September.

Steppin’ Pards is a western square dancing group based in Turlock that meets weekly to work on their calls and dancing. Square dancing starts out with four couples, eight dancers total, facing each other in a square formation. The caller tells the dancers which moves, or “calls,” to do next. Calls can be combined in any order to form a unique set of movements, and no two square dances are exactly the same.

“I adapt my calling style to what the floor is comfortable with, with a few challenges thrown in,” said Ben Goldberg, caller for both Steppin’ Pards and the Merced Boots and Slippers square dance club.

Goldberg said that square dancing has a graduated system for learning calls. New members start in September and learn certain calls throughout the new member program. After learning between 80 and 100 different calls the members graduate to the “plus” program.

Goldberg said that square dancing is excellent cardio, and even older adults can enjoy it. Many square dancers joined for the exercise and stayed for the quality social time they spend with other club members.  Club secretary Sheri Cummings said that she enjoys square dancing because it is good place to meet new people.

“It’s just a nice, clean, safe environment,” Cummings said.

Steppin’ Pards members range in age from teens to over 90 years old. Cloid Stewart is 92 years old and has been a member of Steppin’ Pards for 18 years. He attended a barn dance on Wednesday night held jointly between Steppin’ Pards and Boots and Slippers.

“I enjoy Steppin’ Pards because it is just a good group of people to be around,” Stewart said.

Also in attendance at the dance was Morgan Penner, a 20-year-old member of Boots and Slippers. She said that she tried square dancing because her parents square danced and had a great time, and it piqued her interest in the activity. She stayed because she enjoyed the people and the challenge of square dancing.

“It’s not just a physical activity, it’s a mental activity,” Penner said.

Steppin’ Pards president Kris Greshem said that each area club hosts theme dances and invites other clubs to attend. The Steppin’ Pards have their annual hootenanny coming up on Friday. Greshem said that anyone interested in starting square dancing is welcome to drop by and see what it’s all about. Lessons normally cost $4 per week for club members, but new members are invited to attend a class for free in September. Classes meet from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays at the American Legion hall. For more information visit the Steppin Pards website at

To contact Andrea Goodwin email or call 634-9141.