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The room was a whirl of color Saturday as men in Western wear and women in bright, flowing skirts twirled through direction after direction at the Mid-Winter Festival, part of a weekend-long celebration of square-, round-, and clogging dances at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.

Sandy Eddings, who organized the event with her husband Chuck, said the event has attracted about 1,000 people from around the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Some came from as far away as Japan. Many took part in a lively demonstration Friday morning at Heritage Mall. 

“This is the biggest festival (of its kind) in the state,” said Sandy.

To make the annual event happen, she said the organizers relied on a team of more than 60 volunteers. Planning had to begin in April of 2016 because the internationally renowned callers have to be booked years in advance.

Sandy Eddings said the biggest reason people participate is that the dance community becomes a second family for the square dancers.

“We’ve been dancing 30 years and in that time we’ve probably made thousands of friends,” she said.

Chuck Eddings, who with Sandy is a member of the Independence Wagon Wheelers Club, said for anyone interested in square dance, the first step is to find a local club and watch. If they like what they see, they can enroll in a beginner course, he said. Visit http://bit.ly/2rJqsVJ for information about square-dancing clubs in Oregon.

Sandy Eddings said that square-dance events are a great way to have fun.

“Very seldom do you see anybody here who is not smiling,” she said.

Atticus Wahl, a 15-year-old from Coos Bay, said she likes square-dancing more than high school dances. “It’s a lot more structured, not as awkward dance moves and it’s a friendlier environment,” she said.

Kaleb Quinn, a 16-year-old from Sweet Home, said he’s been square-dancing for about 7 years and he likes big events like the festival because he gets to meet other young people who share his interest.

“In my home club, I’m the youngest one,” he said.

The event continues today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information and schedules, visit http://www.midwinterfestival.com.

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Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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