The Missouri State Fair hosted its Senior Appreciation Day on Wednesday, with one of the most popular attractions being the Missouri Waltz Dance Contest.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Missouri Association for Area Agencies on Aging hosted the 2019 Missouri Waltz Dance Contest in the Matthewson Exhibition Center.
DHSS has been hosting the dance contest for more than 15 years, according to DHSS Director’s Office Constituent and Emergency Services Coordinator Wendy Bruemmer. Multiple attractions were available throughout the day in the Matthewson Exhibition Center like bingo, line dancing lessons, vendors, and exhibits. The most popular attraction is the dance contest.
“It’s been going on for a long time and we typically draw in more than 800 seniors from all over the state,” said Bruemmer. “We have a lot of returning contestants every year. We have a lot of new contestants. We typically have between 15 and 20 total couples that participate in the dance contest. I think even more important to note you’ll find that a lot of seniors don’t necessarily want to participate, but they love watching.”
According to Bruemmer, 20 couples competed Wednesday. All participants had to be 60 years of age or older. Contestants could compete in five categories: the Missouri Waltz, Polka, Jitterbug, Two Step, and Line Dance. First, second, and third place cash awards were given in each category.
“They're all dancing to the same song, but we’ll invite three to four couples up at a time. They might have their own little style or flair on it. Some of them do a few more spins,” said Bruemmer.
Despite the cash awards, many of the contestants said they participated just to have fun and socialize with the other contestants and attendees.
“Usually just the socialization of it is mostly why I come. It’s just fun. The movement is fun and it’s healthy. It’s good for you...We just like to have fun with it so if we get bonuses it’s wonderful,” said Cecelia Davis. “It’s a laugh,” added her partner, Mark Brzuchalski. Both are from Columbia and have been dancing together for seven years after meeting in a dance class.
“It’s something we can do together. We enjoy it, both of us, and we meet a lot of people, a lot of friends,” said Patricia Propst, of Jefferson City. She and her husband, Melvin Propst, have been dancing for 75 years, 60 of those years together.
Judges were Miss Missouri Senior 2019 Dr. Nancy Wilkinson, Miss Missouri Senior 2017 Judy Davis, Miss Missouri Senior 2016 and Miss Senior America 2016 Peggy Lee Haberer, and past dancers and dance judges Don and Shirley Link. Participants were judged on their appearance, choreography, and execution. Many contestants even dressed in matching outfits or the women in bright, colorful skirts.
The contest began with participants performing in groups in preliminary rounds in each category. Categories were broken up with open dances for everyone to dance in and performances. John Cecilia and the Country Ordaras provided the live music.
After all the preliminary rounds were completed, the top five from each category were brought back up to perform again before the winners were chosen. It was obvious all of the contestants loved what they were doing. Many smiled and laughed with their partners as they moved around the floor.
There was not a clear favorite among the different styles of dances, with contestants giving different answers when asked about it. Many contestants said they just liked all of them.
“I always like them all. I do line dance a lot,” said Davis, who ultimately won first in the Missouri Waltz, second in Two Step, and third in Polka with her partner Brzuchalski.
Some contestants are even involved in other dance groups and travel to other states to dance.
“(My favorite) is the German dancing. We follow a German band and we belong to a German dance group. We also do cajun dancing. We go down to Louisiana every year,” said Melvin, who ended up winning third in the Missouri Waltz and second in Polka with his partner, Patricia.
Comradery was apparent throughout the event as participants cheered each other on while they performed and when the winners were presented their awards by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and Wilkinson. Afterwards many lingered, taking pictures with each other and chatting.
“After you see a lot of these contestants dancing, once you walk around the fair you’ll see them dancing in some of the other areas throughout the fair. You can just tell that they have a love for dancing,” said Bruemmer.