Valentine’s Day is unique among American holidays. Whether you view it as a wonderful day to celebrate love –a novel thought during current times, or as a “Hallmark Holiday” –the official day of male atonement for a years worth of insensitivity and self-absorption, the day is unique. This special day also has many unique traditions that accompany it. Romantic candle lit dinners, heart shaped boxes of chocolate (lots of good chocolate, hopefully), and sexy red intimate clothing that was not made for comfort are but a few of these “traditions”. Another more long-standing example of these valentine rituals is the quaint tradition of the “Sweetheart Dance”.
The “Sweetheart Dance” has been a staple of small town Valentine’s Day celebrations for generations. In years gone by it was a late winter opportunity to gather together and break the dulling influences of the extended confinement brought about by the season of cold, ice, and snow. It foretold the coming of spring and the new opportunities that came with warmer weather. It was with this desire to break the oppressive grasp of winter (and maybe funding a project or two) that the tradition of the Valentine’s Day dance was revisited this past weekend in the community of Evart, a small town not far from the bright lights of Big Rapids. It was held in one of the buildings recently constructed on the Osceola County Fair grounds (you may remember the fairgrounds as the place “shot up” last summer by politicos from the Grand Rapids area) and attended by a crowd of local grown-up revelers and hordes of late elementary/early middle school age people. The dance was a reminder to some of why they live in a small town and why they want to raise their families in a small town. It brought out the interconnectedness of peoples lives and how safe and comfortable it feels when you are surrounded by neighbors (even the ones that you don’t get along with). It was a testimonial to the importance of a relationship based community and the security that comes from such interactions. The dance this year was put on by the Evart Women’s Club as a way to raise funds for their projects in and around Evart. The music was provided by a live band comprised of local men of a more advanced age and featured the rock and roll that they have been playing on and off for the past two or three decades. Experience was combined with a love of their craft to provide the audience with many fond memories and a dance caused ache or two. Rock and roll has always been dangerous.
The best aspect of this event was that it was a community event, put on by community people, for the benefit of the community and the community supported it with exuberance. It was another example of a small town America where neighbors are looking to help other neighbors without outrageous demands or expectations, well, unless you consider requests for certain songs that should have been left in the sixties outrageous demands and expectations.