29th Barn Dance is back for Good Family Fun
“The room seems to always perfectly hold the number of people who show up.” According to Kathy Wood, a volunteer and musician for the Barn Dance, a benefit for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha.
It all started in 1992, Kathy threw a surprise birthday party for her husband Jim, a then chemistry professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO). Of the attendees were Anne and her husband Jim Carroll, also a chemistry professor at UNO. But this was no lecture! They celebrated with live music from the Rivertown String Band, of which the Woods are members, and plenty of dancing. The next year they did it again, open to the public, and raised money for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha through a free will collection. Anne is a longtime volunteer for Habitat Omaha and helps coordinate the event. She also makes the refreshments for the event, which include a vast assortment of cookies, while her husband, Jim, mans the door. Though Jim Wood’s birthday has morphed into a community event, he is happy to celebrate by keeping the dancing beat on the upright bass and claiming any leftover cookies to take home.
That first year they raised $783, and last year they raised $3,895 through a virtual event, though the dollars and crowds have varied over the years. Kathy and Anne say they have no expectations beyond providing good, clean family fun. Part of their success comes from an approach well known to Habitat Omaha, enlisting everyone to lend a hand. For the Barn Dance, this means securing the venue free of charge from the First United Methodist Church, the donated time of the Rivertown String Band and charismatic dance caller, Eric Manley, another retired chemistry professor at UNO, and the support of volunteers, including students from UNO’s Chemistry Club, thanks to Alan Gift, a current UNO chemistry professor at UNO.
Despite what it may seem, you don’t have to know anything about chemistry or square dancing to attend this vibrant event, though if you want to learn there are many to teach you either. Plenty attend year after year just to enjoy the live music and watch the kids of all ages twirl.
If you’d like to attend the 29th Annual Barn Dance, sponsored by the Rivertown String Band it will be held on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 7-10 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, located at 69th and Cass streets in Omaha.