Low attendence, closing venue end Cambridge’s Sweetgrass Chicken Dance after third year
Cambridge Bureau Chief
The third annual Sweet Grass Chicken Dance (SGCD), hosted this year by the Environmental Club (eClub) and the ARCC Cambridge Bookstore, will not be coming back next year.
The last SGCD, which took place on Oct. 4, 2013, at the Sweet Grass Barn in Dalbo, MN, had its lowest attendance count ever.
During its first year, the SGCD had its highest attendance with a headcount of over 100. The second year produced around 80 participants. Attendance this year dropped drastically to a total headcount of 38.
Peter Wahlstrom, eClub advisor, had hopes for a better turnout. The week before the dance he said, “I’d like to see 180 people in that barn.”
There are a few possibilities of why there was a fall in attendance. eClub President Amanda Anderson said, “The school has seen a decline in enrollment.”
Wahlstrom also had some thoughts on the decline. “I think lousy weather was a factor, and perhaps the somewhat remote location of the Sweet Grass Farm where the barn is located,” he said. Wahlstrom also speculated that students may just have had something better to do.
The eClub had secure funding from collaboration with the bookstore, which gave $950 out of the total $1900 spent to finance the dance. But with the low turnout Wahlstrom said, “Given the expense of putting this event on and the poor response to it, I think it would be a questionable use of funds to try the same thing again next year.”
Before the eClub concluded that there would not be a SGCD next year, they had to decide where the dance would take place in future years.
As of Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, Sweet Grass Barn owner Amy Sabrina passed away due to cancer. The barn has been up for sale since at least August, waiting for a new owner.
The eClub was concerned about the future of the SGCD with the barn changing ownership, but the turnout of this year’s dance became a bigger issue.
The barn setting will be missed by the eClub, and Wahlstrom in particular was very fond of it. “It is unique and intimate in a way. The sound [music] reverberates nicely off of those arched ceilings. You feel like you’re on an island a thousand miles away,” he reminisced.
At the dance, copious amounts of food and drinks were provided as well, described as “good basics” by Wahlstrom. Jackie Gorsuch, a member of eClub, baked treats like seven layer bars and brownies for the dance.
One attendee was Andrew Pogreba, president of the Psychology Club. Having a passion for dancing and socializing is what brought him to the dance. After being asked what would bring him back to the SGCD next year he said, “Another cup of apple cider.” But unfortunately, there will not be a next year.
When planning for this year, the club had reflected on what has not worked in the past. Wahlstrom believes that karaoke interrupted the flow of the dance in the previous year. That is why this year there was a photo booth with a green screen. This way the music and dancing were continuous with other activities on the side.
Besides the fact that there was low attendance, eClub members benefited from the dance. It gave them an opportunity to practice the skills of financing and putting an event together.
Adding some last thoughts, Wahlstrom said, “Despite the low turnout, it should be noted that this event has consistently been very well supported by the college – from administrators like Lisa Harris and Cindi Gilbert, to faculty and staff who helped publicize this event in their classes and even showed up themselves.”
The eClub wished there was a better turnout to memorialize Sabrina, but Walstrom said everyone there still had fun and “we danced our grasses off with Amy in mind.”
There may not be a SGCD next year, but the eClub is up for organizing other fall dances in the future.