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How to Plan a Barn Dance

Barn dances have become very popular for all kinds of events from wedding receptions through to corporate events, birthday parties and village fetes – even prom nights!. I believe their popularity is due to the fact that people of all ages enjoy these events equally. Here is my guide to planning and running a successful event.

The Venue

Barn dances rarely take place in barns, so there is no overpowering need to go and find a friendly farmer and get him to lend you his barn. In fact barns can make very poor venues (unless specifically prepared or designed for such events) as there are often no amenities such as toilets etc. They can also have a tenancy to get a little cold and they can be quite dusty when the dancers start to kick up the dust from the floor unless the barn has been meticulously swept and cleaned beforehand. It is sometimes better to pick a venue such as a village hall, school hall or a large hotel. If the barn dance is for a wedding then a room in the hotel where the wedding reception is being held is usually the norm. The band will also need room to set up their equipment. Ask them how much equipment they have and how much room they will need. You wouldn’t be able to get say a five piece band with a drum-kit onto a stage that is only designed for a duo. Always make sure that there is ample room for the dancers to dance. A barn dance will need a bigger dance floor than a disco. Ask the venue how large the dancing area is.

Choosing a band

Most barn dance bands have a website these days where you can hear snippets of their music or see videos of their live performances. Choose your band to suit the occasion and the likely taste of your guests. Remember that a barn dance band also has to be listened to as well as danced to.

Barn dance bands come in an array of different forms from the traditional accordion, guitar and fiddle arrangement to the more rock and roll type electric barn dance bands. Most bands will sing a song between the dances so that there is always some entertainment throughout the dance. The more rock and roll end of the bands will usually have a few rock and roll numbers for the end of the night and be able to “mix things up” a little to suit everyone.

When choosing a band it is true to say that you get what you pay for. Do not choose on cost alone. It may be better to pay more than you expected to get an evening that everyone remembers for all the right reasons and not the wrong ones. Nearly all barn dance bands come complete with a caller, but always remember to ask if this is the case. Make sure your bands equipment is PAT tested and the band has Public Liability Insurance. This is becoming obligatory in many venues and all barn dance bands should carry such insurance.

Catering

Most dances have some form of food for the guests. It can be a simple buffet, a hotpot or even a hog-roast at a larger event. The food break is usually planned to be about halfway in the proceedings. So if the dance started at 8pm then the buffet would start to be served around 9.30pm. Some venues insist you use their own caterers. Check on this beforehand.

You will also need a bar at your event. There are exceptions such as church socials etc where this is deemed inappropriate. Ask if the venue has a bar or whether you will have to bring one in to cover your event.

What happens during a barn dance?

The band will arrive in ample time to set up their equipment for the barn dance and do a preliminary sound check to make sure all is well. Although the dance may have been designated to commence at a certain time a band cannot perform if not enough people are there on time. This is something that always needs to be taken into consideration.

Before the evenings entertainment commences, the Caller will contact the organiser to do a final check on the start time, and the timing of any breaks etc. It is usual for the band to perform two separate period with a break in the middle.

During the dance your guests will be requiring a few rests between the dances.Most bands entertain with songs between the dance numbers to ensure that there are never any awkward silences. During the interval, between their first time of performance and the next, the band usually provides background music on their sound system. If not, then the venue can usually provide this for you.

If a buffet or hot food is to be served during the night, the interval is usually the best time for the refreshments. This is also often the time organisers to make any speeches or give any gifts or prizes.

Make sure your bands equipment is PAT tested and the band has Public Liability Insurance. This is becoming obligatory in many venues and all barn dance bands should carry such insurance.

When the performance commences, the Caller will invite the guests on to the dance floor and will “walk through” all the barn dance moves before the actual dance begins. Following commencement of the dance, the Caller will continue to call out the moves throughout the dance (so no one needs to have a good memory). And remember, mistakes only add to the fun and jollity!

Barn dances can be great fun for all ages. Enjoy planning your event!

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