Arcata Eye Scene

A-town art, music, theatre. Mostly music. Updated Wednesdays.

Ross Rowley waxes poetic – from the Feb. 18 issue

There really is nothing like a community dance. A dance like the one held last Saturday night at the Arcata Community Center. The Arcata Volunteer Fire department has been holding these dances for a 125 years. The Arcata Hook and Ladder Company #1 held its first dance on Feb. 21, 1884.  Not only are they a means of supporting the fire department, but also they are as important for socializing in Arcata as the Farmers’ Markets and Arts Arcata!. The Fireman’s Ball/Valentines Day dance is a nice little look into the microcosm of Arcata’s blue-collar residents. Hard working, responsible folk, those blue collar volunteer fire fighters.

To see the Arcata Community Center filled with so many folks for a dance is inspiring. Perhaps, people do still go out, even, if it is just one night per year. And, Valentines Day adds that little special something-something to the evening.

I wish Randy Collenberg were around to write about it. He would cut to the chase. If circumstances were different, I know I would have seen Randy and Dannette cutting a rug last Saturday night. They were pretty fair dancers, too.

A community dance really leans toward socializing. Some of these folks don’t get to socialize very often. Sure, there’s a couple of minutes of catching up in the supermarket or sitting down with other adults during youth sporting events, but a dance, especially a Valentines dance, beckons back to a time when the husband and wife and other couples were first courting. Maybe stemming from going out on dates to the Ramada Inn (North Coast Inn) in its heyday.

At the Arcata Volunteer Fireman’s Ball, you can also see families from the Blue Lake, Manila, McKinleyville, Bayside and Trinidad Fire department crews all joining in on the fun. Lots of visiting. A lot like they did in high school.

Last Saturday evenings’ dance was a 21-and-over affair due to the alcohol being served. And, that’s right. You don’t want teenagers messing up a good thing with their youthful temptations.

But, I have to tell you about an event our band played a week earlier also at the Arcata Community Center. It was a fundraiser for the Fieldbrook 8th grade class trip to Catalina. Teacher Bruce Hart uses his annual 50th birthday party as a trick to get his former and present swing dance students out for a big get-together.

It’s amazing to see both beginning and advanced dancers all weaving amongst each other without causing dance floor fender-benders. The real joy is watching the high school and college dancers tearing up the floor. Their vim and vigor, and unseeingly endless stamina, make them a delight to watch.

If your son or daughter doesn’t enjoy team sports, offer to send them and their friends to a swing dance class. They’ll be getting the proper exercise and they’ll meet new friends and curiously, romance may spring out of it. Then, in 20  years, they too can ditch their kids to attend the Arcata Volunteer Fire Department Valentine Fireman’s Ball.

Traditions like that still happen. Just ask any old Arcata family.

Ross Rowley brings a touch of class to the Eye’s Scene pages more weeks than not.


  humboldturtle wrote @

Ah, so here is where you are hiding. Sold out the the Eye, getting paid for you writing. Fewer readers, but it’s worth it, eh?

  Jennifer Savage wrote @

Ross has been writing for us for years now! And, yes, his exorbitant salary is pretty much the reason we’ve had to shrink the paper by 37.5% this year. It may feel light in your hand, folks, but the weight of the content is no less… weighty.

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