The International Square Dance Magazine

Mike Seastrom

The International Association of Square Dance Callers held another great convention April 9-12, 2017, at the Hilton Phoenix in Mesa, Arizona. It was the 44th Annual CALLERLAB Convention and the theme was, “Build the Base-Now”!

There was a Pre-convention Community Dance Leader’s Seminar that began at 9:00am on Saturday, April 8, and Bob Riggs, Chairman of the Committee for Community and Traditional Dance, hosted the event. There were several other Community Dance leaders helping with the various seminars and demonstrations. This event continued until Sunday at 1:00pm. If you have ever had the opportunity to book a one dance party event, this Pre-convention seminar is held each year prior to the CALLLERLAB Convention, and you will be rewarded with some great material to use. Put next year’s Community Dance Leader’s Seminar on your calendar prior to the 2018 CALLERLAB Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

On Sunday afternoon and evening prior to the official start of the Convention, there was a Community and Traditional Dance, a Welcome Reception, an Orientation Session, and then a Foundation Fundraising Dance emceed by Shauna Kaaria. Local dancers attended and danced with Convention attendees who arrived early. This was a very successful fundraising dance with many fine callers. A fun “Zesty Contra” dance, emceed by Clark Baker, was held immediately after.

The official Convention began with an Opening Session at 9:00am, Monday, April 10, 2017, and was called to order by the Chairman of the Board, Vernon Jones. New and existing Board of Governor Members were sworn in by Executive Director, Dana Schirmer, and representatives from various square dance organizations were introduced.

After a Convention overview, general announcements, and a short break, author and public speaker, Patrick Schwerdtfeger presented a workshop and keynote speech about current marketing technologies, how they apply, and how they can be effectively used in square dancing. This was a great way to start the Convention with our theme mentioned above, “Build the Base-Now”!

The day continued with seminars and interest sessions on styling, choreography, entertaining, e-communication/mailing lists, the Knowledge Base and Online resources, planning for the future and many committee meetings on marketing, youth activities, programs, caller training, and public relations.

On Monday night, a special evening was planned with buses taking Convention attendees to the old western town of Rawhide, on the outskirts of Phoenix. Besides being taken back in time, a special Chuck Wagon Dinner was enjoyed along with evening entertainment by Elmer Sheffield, Ken Bower, Jon Jones, and Tom Miller. A Board of Governors Service Award was presented to Bear Miller and Bob Poyner, and there was an “Old Timey Dance” emceed by Vernon Jones.

The next day began at 9:00am with more seminars and interest sessions about teaching, making the learning process easier, sounding events, presenting choreography for dancer success, using specialty squares for dancer entertainment, retaining dancers, using digital music, creating a smooth dancing experience, and creating a more sustainable square dance program for new dancers. Lee Kopman presented a panel and demonstrated the use of creative choreography and an “Interview with the Legends” session was held interviewing Johnny LeClair, Ken Bower, and Ed Foote. Paul Moore, author of As I Saw It, a book about Bob Osgood, also presented background information about the book. This is a wonderful historical resource that is available on

This Convention, like so many before it, was rich in information and ideas on growing our activity, and improving our calling, teaching, and entertaining for maximum fun and retention of our dancers now and in the future. Over 300 attended this Convention.

The Tuesday night banquet was emceed by Jack Pladdys. There were awards given to callers calling 25 years as well as those calling 50 or more years. CALLERLAB’s highest honor is the Milestone Award and this year it was presented to Vic and Debbie Ceder, and Deborah Carroll-Jones. The Gold Card, which is “Life Membership” in CALLERLAB is given in recognition of service to CALLERLAB and was presented to Jerry Reed.

Vernon Jones presented two Chairman’s Awards this year to Harlan Kerr and Shauna Kaaria for their exceptional work with their committees. Special Recognition Awards were given to Brad Christie and Thomas Bernhed for their outstanding contributions to square dancing. Andy Shore and Janienne Alexander received recognition as Patrons of the Foundation and Donna Schirmer received an Award of Excellence for her outstanding contributions to CALLERLAB.

There was a Music Producers’ Dance emceed by Buddy Weaver after the evening Banquet. This entertaining Mainstream dance was a great nightcap to an amazing Convention day.

The official Convention concluded with the Annual Meeting on Wednesday morning at 9:00am with Vernon Jones presiding. Executive Director Dana Schirmer and Parliamentarian Jerry Reed also contributed to the meeting while seated at the front table. Barry Johnson, Tom Miller, Bill Harrison, and Scott Bennett served as Sergeants-at-arms and counted votes.

Plan now to attend the CALLERLAB Convention next year in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 26-28, 2018, with pre-convention activities on the 24th and 25th. This 45th Annual Convention will continue a great tradition of further educating callers of all experience and other dance leaders on how to grow square dancing with new dancers, while more effectively retaining those already enjoying our dance with fun and entertainment. Don’t miss the opportunity to recharge your batteries and become a better caller, teacher, and dance leader while having the time of your life!  

Fun set to music!