Public Lands Stewards: Recipe for Community Contra Dance

by | Summer Camp

Cascade Mountain School extends a huge thank you to all our community partners who support our programming year round by sharing their knowledge and practices, homes and trades, experiences and inspiration with our participants. YOU make our programming rich, deep, and grounded in the Columbia Gorge! A special thank you to the Sappy Fir Cones, Sue, Margarita, the Trout Lake Grange, Kaye & Fisher, Erica, Emily, and the Trout Lake Community! Here’s a “recipe” for a community contra dance so that you can make your own…

A community contra dance, appropriate recipe for celebrating amazing program partners, raising money for scholarships, building community, enjoying an early spring day, and much more!


  • 1 band of talented musicians
  • 1 seasoned Caller
  • 1 Grange Hall (or other community building of choice)
  • 60+ children, adults, families (from up & down the Gorge, Mt. Adams to Mt. Hood)
  • 500 ft of string lights
  • 13 quart-sized mason jars
  • 3 gallon-sized mason jars
  • 20 printed pictures
  • Tamales con salsa (hecho por mano en Trout Lake)
  • Salad greens (seeds and shredded veggies as garnish)
  • Fruit salad (medley of your choice)
  • Desserts (made by 2017 Trout Lake Fair Baking Contest Winner, Erica Bingham)
  • E-vites, Facebook Posts
  • 25 colorful printed posters
  • 7 floral table cloths
  • Handful of tables and chairs
  • 1 roll duct tape
  • 3 sharpies

Extra Spices for the Adventurous:

  • Raffle (stickers, t-shirts, water bottles, gift certificates, or whatever is available on hand)
  • Half-time wooden sword dance or other talent show performed by local kids
  • Muy picante salsa


Note: This recipe is appropriate for any time of year, any day of the week, any time of day. We chose a Saturday evening in March; the inklings of spring and warm sun encouraging folks and friends to venture out from cozy homes, put on their dancing shoes, and join the fun. Mix well and add spice as desired.

Advanced Prep:

For best results, start these “Advanced Prep” tips one-two months early. Just like baking a cake, having everything out before you dive in will make your week-of prep (and the cake) go much smoother.

  1. Call up local musicians and Callers two months in advance, and ask for their contributions as the two essential ingredients.

Thank you Sappy Fir Cones and Sue!

  1. Choose a location that’s easy for folks to access and has lots of dancing space! Book early, depending on the season.

We love our Trout Lake Grange Community Hall!

  1. Draft up a colorful poster. Print and post two weeks prior to event.

We like to support our local student-run printing business, Glacier Graphics.

  1. (Optional) Modern-era Media Push: send out a Facebook invitation and email E-vite to all your friends, neighbors, community members, and supporters. Look for local newsletters and websites to post on to reach out far and wide, beyond your regular circles. Invite anyone and everyone in the community to this awesome evening!

Many thanks to the Gorge Current, White Salmon Enterprise, Hood River News, Trout Lake Newsletter, Columbia Gorge STEM Hub, Gorge Owned, and others who helped share our event.

  1. Call a local tamale shop and place an order for 13 dozen tamales—chicken, veggie, pork, veggie & cheese—to pick up the day of the dance.

Mil gracias a Margarita! A huge thank you for your time and effort to make delicious tamales, salsa, and rice.


  1. Turn the Trout Lake Sunshine meter on high for good vibes
  2. Arrange tables and chairs around your space, as they fit best
  3. Engage a vibrant 5-year-old to help set up photos, donation jars, tablecloths, and snacks.

Sampling the first tamale is a great incentive…

  1. Decorate mason jars with photos and sprinkle around the space
  2. Hang string lights around the front porch, if there is one

May need to find a tall person to help, or a tall chair to stand on.

  1. Pick up piping hot tamales from down the road
  2. Toss a salad, garnish with seeds and cranberries if wanting a little extra spice.
  3. Sit on the porch, soak up the five o’clock sunshine while waiting for folks to arrive
  4. Strike up the band, watch local kids practice their wooden sword dance for the half-time show.
  5. Eat a tamale (before you get swept away in greeting guests)

Mix well, add a few dashes of*:

  • Warm greetings: Hugs, smiles, waves, handshakes, etc.
  • Dancing: Your heart out with every one of all ages, from all over!
  • Gratitude: For a community who supports your work and each other, who is excited to spend their evening contra dancing for a cause!

*For extra spice, throw in a shake or two of raffle items, lemon water, extra hot salsa, or whatever else your heart desires.