Celebrating history with a dance

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News

June 30, 2014 - 12:00 AM

HUMBOLDT — The halls of Humboldt High School echoed with the sounds of a fiddle and rhythmic clapping, pulsing from the heart of the gymnasium where more than 150 people gathered in swirls of fabric and laughter. It was a curious mix of people from all over southeast Kansas ranging in ages from 3 to 93 wearing anything from T-shirts and sneakers to lavish ballroom gowns. This was the sixth annual Civil War Dance.
Debbie Lake, president of the Humboldt Civil War Days, said larger venues have had to be found over the years. The dance began in the high school cafeteria, then moved to the grade school, until this year’s event in the high school gym.
“I don’t know where we’re going to go if this gets too small,” she said.
The Civil War Dance is held every year while their biggest event, Civil War Days, is every three years. The next Civil War Days will be next summer. Civil War Days includes a historical re-enactment of the day Humboldt was attacked and burned to the ground in 1861. The re-enactment has been celebrated since 1993.
“We want people to become familiar with their own history,” said Eileen Robertson, secretary of Humboldt Civil War Days.
The dance was free and open to the public, drawing people of all ages to dance or sit on the sidelines and clap and cheer for them. There were a lot of familiar faces guiding the entertainment; Robert Thomas, Fort Scott, acted as prefector and guided people in the dances and activities while live music was provided by Camp Hunter String Band.
“Our band is award-winning musicians. We contacted them and got them to form a band for us,” Lake said. “They research the music from that time and use authentic instruments.”
One of the games involved a hat. Men formed one line on the side of the gym and women on the other while Thomas stood by three chairs in the middle. A woman would sit in the middle chair with a hat in her hand and two men would sit on either side. She would decide which man to dance with and would give the other the hat. Then the game would be continued with the man with the hat sitting center while two women sat on either side.
Michaele Day, Altamont, came to the dance with her husband and children. This was their third year attending.
“We love history already, so this is just icing on the cake,” she said. “It’s a great way to finish the school year.”
Day’s son, Nathanael, wore a Confederate soldier’s uniform that he’d made himself. He’d also sewn his sister Hannah’s dress.
Eileen Robertson said she loved seeing the wide mix of people having fun together.
“Nobody in costume is offended by those not in costume and vice versa,” Robertson said. “Everybody just has fun.”

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