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Shamrock Shindig turns Kent into a sea of green

A large crowd filled the dance floor of the Kent Community House March 15 for the Shamrock Shindig. All things Irish were celebrated. Stephanie Grusauski, right, and her mom, Sheryll Robb, had fun with the Virginia Reel. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

KENT—They did it again. The Chamber of Commerce packed the Community House again last Friday night with revelers eager to celebrate the feast day of a fifth-century Irish saint who would, undoubtedly, have been unable to understand what all the hoopla was all about.

The room was a sea of green and orange as Kent rolled out for an evening of fun and frolic. Jigs and reels played on guitars, bagpipes and a bodhran set an insistent beat as Gary Kidd, a Scotsman, guided dancers in a celebration of the Irish by explaining the intricacies of English country dances. 

He led the evening off with a Virginia Reel, a classic dance that, despite its name, may have its origins in Scottish country dance and the Highland reel, may, indeed, have even earlier roots in an Irish dance called the Rinnce Fada

“Forward, one, two, three, clap! Back, one, two, three, clap!” he called, directing the somewhat bewildered dancers as they joined both hands for a round, do-si-do’d and galloped from the head of the line to the foot, only to race back to the lead position.

As the tempo increased, so did the laughter. The only phones in evidence were raised high to record the action.

Demonstrating another dance, Kidd pulled his mother, Sandra, onto the floor. She and his father, Alan Kidd, had flown in from Scotland to take part in the evening before continuing on to their vacation in Washington, D.C. 

When the country dances ended, the crowd enjoyed samples of Irish food, tasted Irish liquors and played a surprisingly challenging game that asked participants to roll a full bottle of Guinness stout across an expanse of floor into a grid laid out on the floor.

Those not playing danced to vintage rock ‘n roll played by pianists.

“It was just a fun night,” said Kidd after the event. “It was nice seeing new faces and being able to talk to people.”

He said attendance was just shy of the number who came out in January for the Robert Burns’ Dinner. “We knew it would be more competitive,” said Kidd. “There haven’t been that many Burns’ Nights, but everyone knows about St. Patrick’s Day and a lot of people have a favorite place they like to go. We’ve had lots of great feedback, though, about how much fun it was.”

After a full day of preparing for, and conducting a whoopie party, members of the Chamber of Commerce’s CommUNITY Subcommittee pitched in and cleaned the community hall. “The UNITY group is just great,” said Kidd. “At end of night, we had the hall pretty much clear in 30 minutes. It’s a great group of people.”

The day was not yet over for Kidd, however. He and his parents piled into their car and drove to Washington, D.C., on the next leg of their journey. Arriving in the pre-dawn hours, it was the end of “a long, long day,” according to the young entrepreneur.

The CommUNITY effort was begun last year with the goal of getting people out to have fun together. It has achieved some notable successes, such as the Christmas Festival, The Burns Night and now the Shamrock Shindig. The committee will not rest on its laurels, however.

“There will be a Spring Fest on May 4,” Kidd said, “and we’re hoping to do something for the Olympics in July. There are a lot of things in the works. There’s nothing better than being in the community and bringing smiles to faces. I feel joy by bringing them joy.”

Kathryn Boughton
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