Winter Park / Live Music: Grab your partner for Western Hoedown |

Winter Park / Live Music: Grab your partner for Western Hoedown

Pull those cowboy boots on and round up a partner for an old-fashioned Western Hoedown, complete with square dance lessons and live music by local bluegrass band Hunker Down on Saturday at Cooper Creek Square.

The Never Summer Squares will be offering free square dance lessons for all ages 2 to 4 p.m. as the Square also hosts sidewalk sales, art displays, face painting and games.

Grand County’s square dance club invites everyone to see why square dancing is called “friendship set to music.”

Beginning dancers start at the foundation of square dancing ” called the mainstream level. After dancers learn the basics, they can work their way up to the “plus” levels of a great number of skilled steps. Those interested need not be smooth operators on the dance floor and male dancers no longer need to worry about being able to lead their partner, because everyone has the caller leading them along.

There is no judgment made, only the support you need ” part of why square dancing is called “friendship set to music.”

“You spend so much time laughing and helping each other out,” said Vernie Tupa, president of the club with her husband Ed. “You become close friends through that.”

At 4:30 p.m., dancers will try out what they’ve learned to the high energy of bluegrass barons Andy Straus, Greg Travis, Bobby Krech, Matty Brown and Branon Barrett. The band, known widely to “pack ’em in each time,” plays what they call “stewed rompgrass.”

The “stewed” part comes from Brown and Straus’ band The Slightly Stewed String Band and “like any good stew, we had a great mix of guys that had studied all over the world and created a unique musical flavor,” Straus said. He also said it’s a romping good time “sometimes,” but fans will tell you the mandolin maestro can oft times be modest.

Straus’ studies of music in Ghana, India and Brazil and of ethnomusicology at Miami University have helped him become a voice for “old-timey repertoire.” Other founding member Brown is not only a strong songwriter behind Hunker Down’s creative originals but plays mean guitar for the group. Travis, “the heart and soul of the band,” plays washboard and drums for the group. Krech brings Hunker Down’s sound to another level with his fiddle style, original tunes, and “blazing licks.” Barrett frequently plays incredible banjo with the group.

Their frontman said their biggest influences are “probably each other because we’re into so many different types of music, and we’ve also traveled a lot and a lot of us are multi-lingual and we’re drawn to American roots … old bluegrass songs are kind of something that can bring us all together in a common influence.”

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