June 22, 2018

Next Grill Night and Square Dance, Sunday, Sept. 23


Next Grill Night and Square Dance, Sunday, Sept. 23

Grill Night adds square dancing to the fun.

On August 19 the Topanga Community Club (TCC) unites two long-standing Topanga traditions as an old-time square dance was added to Steak Night, now re-named “Grill Night” in deference to our vegetarian friends.

Steak Night was a Monday night tradition at the American Legion Hall, now Froggy’s, where Topangans brought something to grill and paid fifty cents for salad and potato. With no Internet or Facebook, it was the perfect way to catch up on local gossip and get out of the kitchen for a night. Steak Night made Mondays okay.

As for the square dance, that was a fixture at Topanga Days for years. After the booths shut down, Bert Moore brought up a big roast beef he had been cooking all day and dinner was served on real plates with real knives and forks following the advice of his wife, Jan Moore, who said paper plates would not be proper. She was always ahead of her time. Then there was square dancing until 10 p.m. while “volunteers” did the dishes and bartended. We had stamina in those days!

Both events are back and better than ever. Randy Just has a huge grill with half dedicated to vegetarian items and we now have live music that King Baby brought to the August 19 Grill Night with fiddle- and banjo-heavy tunes from the Appalachian hills to the Topangan hills for a few hours of dancing led by caller Ginger Albert. For those who braved the atypically warm Topanga evening, most were novice square dancers, which made for a particularly fun night.

According to Matt Klemp, the banjo has been described as the only uniquely American musical instrument. Like the banjo, Traditional Square Dancing and the music that accompanies it, represent a tradition that is truly American. Any serious inquiry into the history of either the banjo or square dancing will inevitably lead one to serious consideration of the Appalachian Mountains in the Central United States.

Both the banjo and the square dance traditions of Appalachia were shaped by the social, economic, and geographical environment in which they evolved. Old-Time Appalachian Music has survived to this day in large part due to the topography of the region. As modern technology, especially radio, swept the U.S. in the Twentieth Century, many rustic traditions were lost and forgotten. But those very radio signals could not penetrate into the hills of Kentucky and West Virginia, nor could the economic stature of mountain folk afford such conveniences as radios. So the old traditions continued largely unaltered into the 1960s and 1970s, where a new wave of folk fanatics were able to discover, document and preserve them.

Grill Night starts at 4 p.m., Sept. 23, for $5 a person and $5 a person if you stay for the dancin’. Old-Time Music starts at 6:30 p.m. on the TCC stage with square dancing to follow from 7-9 p.m. Beginners (and music fans) are encouraged to attend. A dance partner is not required, and in true Appalachian form, multiple generations are invited to dance and socialize. Grill Night is child friendly and provides a kid wrangler to watch over the young 'uns!

Proceeds from both events benefit the mission of the TCC.


Upcoming events include Topanga Youth Services Talent Show, Sept. 21; another Grill Night and Square Dance on Oct. 21; Sages Social Supper Nov. 2; the Swap Meet and Chili Cook-Off on Nov. 10; Playground Holiday Bazaar Fundraiser Nov. 17; the Kids Holiday Party Dec. 1; the Senior Holiday Party Dec. 2; and The Topanga Nutcracker, Dec. 7,8, and 9. Elections for the new TCC board will be in November. Volunteers should attend the general meeting on September 13 at 7 p.m. or let someone on the current board know wish to participate.