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Square dancing convention gets in full swing in OKC

More than 4,000 people will attend this year's national square dancing convention at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
by Matt Patterson Modified: June 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm •  Published: June 27, 2013

Barbi Ashwill dragged her husband, Lee, to a square dancing lesson in 1978, and the Salem, Ore., couple has been tapping their toes together ever since.

The Ashwills are in Oklahoma City this week for the 62nd annual National Square Dancing Convention at the Cox Convention Center.

“She danced before we got married,” Lee said. “The guys are the hardest to get to the lessons. She said I'll make you a deal. You go to one lesson, and if you don't like it, I'll never say another word.”

Both were wearing matching green Thursday as they took in the sights at the convention, one of the highlights of their year. They come to the conventions in part to see old friends and to hear the dance callers they don't get to hear in Oregon.

“Square dancers are so friendly,” Barbi Ashwill said. “You can introduce yourself to people and sit and talk. You feel very comfortable doing that.”

Convention Chairman Gene Morton is from Vernon, Texas. He said this was the convention's fifth time in Oklahoma City, more than any other city in the country. About 4,000 people are registered this year from 49 states and 13 foreign countries.

“We have some people from as far away as Japan and China,” he said.

“It's growing in those countries.”

This weekend will include a fashion show and a parade of states. There are vendors selling every kind of square dancing attire imaginable. There are also workshops and panel discussions on dancing.

Lawrence Johnstone came to Oklahoma City from Ukiah, Calif., to serve as a caller. He started square dancing as a freshman in high school in 1978. His parents got him into square dancing because they thought it would be a good way for the family to spend time together.

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by Matt Patterson
Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun....
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