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Steppin Pards celebrate 60 years of do-si-do
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Turlock square dancing group the Steppin' Pards will celebrate their 60th anniversary this month. The group meets every Wednesday for dance workshops at the Turlock American Legion Hall, and hosts five square dance parties a year. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Some come for the fellowship. Others want to continue a long family tradition. A Pitman High School freshman was pulled into it by neighbors, and has stayed for the fun. No matter what the reason, every member of the Turlock Steppin Pards wants to share their passion for square dancing.

"I've been looking forward to it a long time because I love dancing," said Marlene Hunt, one of the group's newest dancers.

Hunt joined the Steppin Pards during their new member time in September, along with Rita Eidschun and Pitman High student Kiana Baniqued, who said the do-si-do is her favorite move because she can "twirl around.”

"I think it's a lot of fun," said Eidschun. "I'm probably the worst one, but I'm having a lot of fun."

Over the next nine months, the new members will learn a couple new square dancing steps every week, which will culminate in a 'graduation' ceremony in May.

The club's newest members will have some good teachers, as the Steppin Pards prepare to celebrate their 60th anniversary on Nov. 8.

Many members have been square dancing for decades, but that doesn't mean the music is as old as the club. On Wednesday, caller Terry Passarino played songs from Bob Seeger and even Lady Gaga.

"I play everything from the old standards and classics to really modern music," said Passarino. "It attracts younger people."

The music isn't the only thing hoppin' at Steppin Pard dances. According to club president Sheri Cummings, a night of square dancing can burn pounds and help with memory retention.

"It's great exercise," said Cummings, who started dancing in the 1970s, took a break while raising her family, and returned to the club about five years ago.

For Betty Wilkinson, square dancing is all about the fellowship.

"You can't find any warmer people than square dancers," the Merced Boots & Slippers member said.

In fact, square dancing was what brought her and her husband together.

"I was wearing a shirt that said 'Ask me about square dancing,' and he did. And now we're married. We'll celebrate our one year anniversary in December," Wilkinson said.

The Turlock club is part of the Central California Square Dance Association and hosts five parties a year.  The next dance party will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Dennis Earl Elementary, 4091 N. Olive Ave., Turlock. The public is invited to come see what the Steppin Pards are all about.