Begin the New Year with Dancing Feet For All

As a kid, New Year’s Eve meant one of two things: my parents went out all dressed up without the kids or they stayed home with us and we all had a steak dinner with home fried potatoes, watched New Year’s Eve with Dick Clark, along with snippets of Guy Lombardo’s rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and stood in the middle of the living room laughing together as we screamed out the countdown and the ball fell down the long pole.  I loved the family involvement and staying up so late the best.

When my own daughters were growing up, we created our own events where we all got dressed up and made it a very festive evening.  I wish I’d known then what I know now – a fantastic family event for all is the Fiddle & Dance Camp in Saugerties, New York.  Its appropriately only about ten minutes from Woodstock, NY, which is not only a historically memorable spot, there’s more awesome tie-dyed clothes in Woodstock than anywhere else.

I interviewed Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, performers, composers, and teachers specializing in 19th- and 20th-century American folk songs and dance music, who have run the Ashocan camp for over 20 years. Their story is included in my book, IMMERSION TRAVEL USA, and I knew I had to get there to fully experience their music.

Always looking for a new way to enjoy New Year’s Eve, I attended New Year’s Eve in Ashokan, a yearly event, and literally danced the night away to Cajun, swing and country blues with the Red Stick Ramblers, Swingology Band, and Jay and Molly.  I particularly liked the contra and square dancing, and watching the people who really knew how to dance!  There were free dancing lessons after dinner and before the music started – smart move!

I needed the classes and learned that one reason my partner and I never seem to be dancing the same beat is because his legs are so long, it takes him longer to move between steps. It was a fun filled evening.

The best part was seeing children of all ages dancing together and with their families.  Participation was intergenerational, from very young children to octogenarians, or possibly older.  People wore everything from jeans and cowboy boots to vintage lace.  What’s really cool is that you can spend the whole weekend there in dance and music workshops or just go for the evening.

For December 31, 2010, the Swingology Band, which specializes in swing, blues and waltzes, features Jay and Molly, their daughter and son-in-law Ruthy and Mike.  The Red Stick Cajun Band will play fabulous Cajun and Creole music.  Both of these bands will be around for the entire weekend, December 31 – January 3 and there’s a whole list of workshops people can take.

Performing on Friday, New Year’s Eve only will be the Emulsifiers, playing New England contras, square dances, waltzes and more, and Will Mentor and John Krumm, will be calling the contra and square dances and there will be dancing lessons for swing, slow blues, Cajun and Creole.

Ashokan is also a great place to keep in mind for the summer.  Then you’ll find the perfect combination of summer canoeing and hiking on 300 acres in the Catskill Mountains and weeks of music and dancing programs.  There’s eclectic western and swing, contra, Lindy, West Coast country & western, Cajun, barn dances, square dances, two-step partner dances, and much more.  Classes are taught by experts from all over the country who enjoy teaching and jamming.

It’s common to see children sitting knee-to-knee playing tunes with someone decades older, and both absorbed and intent on music-making.  From beginners to professionals, people learn new things and build strong connections with each other.  And everyone is welcome – all ages, interests and abilities.  Many people attend just to listen to the music and watch everyone else while others take part.   It’s a great family weekend or on your own – many singles attend and there’s bunk house space that’s rustic but comfy.
For more information:

Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camp – summer programs include a full week of all meals, classes, and workshops; weekend events are very modestly priced.

Visiting Woodstock, NY, don’t miss the Museum at Bethel Woods: The Story of the Sixties and the Woodstock Museum.

For great barbecue, stop by the Hickory Barbecue and Smokehouse, Route 28 between Kingston and Woodstock, for great BBQ salmon and brisket. Enjoy everything you do!

Sheryl Kayne’s IMMERSION TRAVEL USA: THE BEST AND MOST MEANINGFUL LIVING AND LEARNING EXCURSIONS is filled with trips to get involved all over the USA working, volunteering, advocating, learning and playing. She is also the author of the book VOLUNTEER VACATIONS ACROSS AMERICA, with an index for family trips. Sheryl would love to hear from you at or check out her website

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About the author

Sharlene Earnshaw is Trekaroo’s Editor in Chief. She lives in sunny Orange County, CA, with her husband and 10-year-old son and daughter (twins!). She is a self-proclaimed National Park junkie and has the goal of visiting each and every one with her kids. When she isn't traveling to places like Norway, Peru, Disney World, and Hawaii with her family, she enjoys hiking, beach days, obsessively rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, and planning her brood's next trip.

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