The Dance is what has and continues to set Garner Park apart from other state park destinations. Families with kids from 3 to 103 have some fun.
The music plays until 11pm during the summer and on popular weekends like Easter or Spring Break. There is a 10pm curfew in the park. When the dance is over at 11pm, you are expected to return directly to your campsite and be quite or go to the park exit and leave the park before 11:25pm.
Come to Garner and stay near the pavilion and enjoy the MUSIC. During the summer, if you want the quiet of nature, stay at the north end of the park or visit another state park. The south end, or "Old Garner", as it is sometimes called, is Heaven for those that enjoy the Garner pavilion and The Dance!
The Dance at Garner is unique.
The music wouldn't had lasted had it not been for the people that have put up with opening up the pavilion every night during the summer. Say thank you to the employees that have listened to the same song a dozen times the morning after; to those wonderful people that have turned on the juke box, flashed the lights, and turned it all off at the appropriate time; to those managers that have had to place orders, pay the bills, price goods and services, pay the payroll, ask, plead, remind, and bargain to get others to work.
Thank you to all the concessionaires. Just pray that the next concessionaire that follows doesn't say the dance is not worthwhile anymore. The "Garner Magic" will fade away.
Every night in the summer, the girls dressed up in fancy dresses, short shorts, or jeans, fancied their hair up with rollers, and did their makeup. They were often unrecognizable from their river appearances earlier in that day. The day spent on the river ended early for some as they needed to prepare for the "Prom".
Dances more recently are a lot more casual. You can and do dress up a bit to impress!
People that did the Whip and other dances often wore "Garner Moccasins". These were sold by the park concessionaire in the gift shop, or from Slade's Saddle Shop, once in Uvalde. They had a smooth soft sole leather with a padded insole and rawhide lacing, very slippery on a wet dance floor or smooth limestone. You wore holes in them after a summer or two's use at the park. The moccasins allowed dancers to do long spins, easily move their feet, and walk on the very hot river rocks and roads. When doing the two-step, they provided no protection from cowboy boots though. Back in the day, I tried making my own by mail-ordering a Tandy leather kit. Today similar footwear might be available from retailers that carry Minnetonka Brand shoes. On-line reviews give them a bad rap, but there is nothing better than feeling barefoot at Garner without having tough dirty feet. https://www.minnetonkamoccasin.com/double-deerskin-softsole-men
Today's choice is the flipflop. Few people are "whipping", but if you do want to spin, get some mocs!
There was at one time green wood and metal benches surrounding the floor. One of these benches can still be seen at the Visitor Center in the nature garden. These Pavilion benches came into disrepair and were removed. Practice now with campers is to bring their own camp chairs. Take them with you after the dance. If you leave your chair on the pavilion floor overnight or place them there too early in the day, they might be shuffled about by a tourist. They might also be removed to facilitate sweeping the dance floor.
Then there is the wall. Many people prefer to sit on the wall. High enough to take the weight off your feet, it's made of limestone rock. Two feet wide, two feet high, with a two-inch radius edge. Not soft, but you can always sit on your hands or summer blanket and enjoy you iced tea.
There have been a few of them. The current one is digital. In the past they played 45's. That's a vinyl disc that turns at a rate of 45 revolutions per minute.
Do you have any Garner Dance trivia that you would like to share?
Q: What two artists have had the most songs on the jukebox at the same time?
A: The Beatles and Ray Price. Both had 22 records to select.
What to be a dance instructor of sorts? Yes, you need to be able to show and tell others how to dance. That's not difficult. Come volunteer and keep everyone dancing at Garner.
Slow - Slow - Quick - Quick. The leader steps with their left foot first. Go forward, backward, or in place. Most dancers circle the floor clockwise.
Keep your arms somewhat stiff. This allows your partner to better lead or follow. Sudden turns maybe needed on a crowded dance floor.
Modern versions have added swing and spin movements.
Now the race is on and here comes pride up the backstretch...
A "slot dance", stay in same place on dancefloor, always facing the same two directions. At Garner, they have two ways of dancing the "Whip". The "Old Whip" is Push, Pass, Whip - 1, 2, 3-and-4, 5-and-6. The "New Whip" has a simpler 1, and 2, 3 step. You will see both on the dancefloor.
Link to West Coast Swing Basic Steps on YouTube
The Whip was a dance popular after the war in the 50's.
Browse here for some history on the whip.
A slick piece of concrete is favored.
My favorite song to whip to is "Chickawawa".
These dances have everyone following a leader, each person following the one in front of them, resting their hands on the hips, shoulders, or back of those in front of you. Steps are unique to each dance. Watch and learn.
One - Two - Three. Most everyone can walk and count to three. Three steps that way, three steps the other way. Or keep going the way of the last three steps, sort of turning in a circle. Or step backwards three steps, or step in place, whatever doesn't run over someone else.
As with the Two-Step, keep your arms somewhat stiff so your partner can lead or follow.
It's four in the morning and once more the dawning...
One and two, rock back.
The Jitterbug is also a swing dance. It was most popular at the park in the 40's and 50's. This dance style often requires lots of room which isn't always found on the Garner Pavillion dance floor.
When the time is right, go for it and have some fun!
These dances have no leader or follower. Everyone dances with a partner or with a group of people in a line side by side. Steps are unique to each dance. Watch and learn.
Songs previously on the Garner jukebox:
The Beatles, Elvis, and Ray Price were popular artist.
We would hear the songs at Garner and ask the radio stations back in Houston or Dallas to play them. They would go on to become hits nationwide. Click the picture above to view songs of the 50's and 60's.
If you want to dance, younger kids stand on the side of the Garner oak tree where the restrooms are. Older kids stand on the side towards the parking lot. Otherwise find a seat or stand somewhere off the dance floor. Your concessionaire, put up the railings and put down white lines for a reason.
No chairs on the dancefloor. Keep chairs within 5 feet of the wall. Leave room for dancing.
Put your chewing gum in the trash, especially not stuck to our oak trees or rock walls. You don't want to be a volunteer there to remove chewing gum the next morning.
No running on a wet dancefloor. It can be slippery, especially with leather soles.
No skateboards on the dancefloor. (Picture of sign)
Never say "No" if someone asks you to dance.
How to ask for a dance:
“May I have this dance?''
“Want to dance?''
“Care to dance?''
“Would you like to dance?''
“Shall we dance?''
Ladies should feel equally comfortable asking a partner for a dance. Go girl!
Don't ask the same partner for more than two consecutive dances. Dance with many different people. Give everyone a chance to dance. Find out how they dance. Improve your dancing, and theirs. Meet new people.
Seek dancing with those not so good at dancing and enjoy it. Good dancers make their partners look good. Someone must make us all better dancers. Dance to the level of your partner. You might want to just “sway back and forth”.
There are not many excuses for declining a dance: you do not know the dance, you need to take a rest, or you have promised the dance to someone else.
Dances such as the Two-step, Waltz, Polka, and crowd dances are done in a circular direction around the dance floor.
“The Garner Whip”, a swing dance, is somewhat stationary and is done on the "Whipping Block", a smooth piece of concrete near the wall to the right of the steps going down to the river. Sometimes the middle of the floor is also used if the Whipping Block is crowded. “Buckle rubbers” should stay to the center or the side of the dance floor too.
Often it is possible to dance more than one type of dance to the same song. Observe how others handle the beat or see the song list near the juke box for suggested dance styles for various songs.
Don't forget to say, "Thank you" to your partner when the dance is over. Your partner should respond, "Thank you", as well. "No problem" isn't a good response to a thank you, even if problems abound.
Leave room for others to dance too. Don't "take over" the floor.
When a partner steps on your toe or misses a lead, just smile, and go on. An ice pack may be helpful later.
Be personable, smile, and make eye contact with your partner. Converse, "Where are you from?", "Come to Garner often?", "Do you like to dance?".
Don't decline a dance and then dance with someone else. Be at the ready to accept the dance from the partner you do want to dance with. Know what songs will play next.
What you wear on your feet should be comfortable, safe, and represent “you”. Dressing up a bit can be fun.
Don't forget your dance shoes. Tennis shoes and flip flops aren't the best for dancing. Moccasins and leather soled shoes are great.
Ask everyone to dance. Dancing is like playing the fiddle, you can read books and watch You-Tube for days and get nowhere, just go dance.
Today's beginners will be the good dancers of tomorrow, so be nice to them and dance with them. In a few years, you may wish that you had.
Smile, be warm, be personable, be nice. Have fun! Garner is about having FUN!
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