04 Jan 2020

Times Squares “State of the Club” Report presented by President Jim Babcock

Thank you all for being here today.  Being present is an important and visible sign of your commitment to this square dance club.

At last year’s meeting, I presented a lot of data about how the club performed, which this year was placed in the January newsletter. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The abridged version of that data is that in 2019, the club drew in more dancers, increased its membership, offered more opportunities to dance, and had a wider offering of callers than the prior year. One data point I do want to mention is that in 2018, there was a grand total of 1838 attendees; in 2019, a grand total of 2389. This last number is something to which each of you have actively contributed. Thank you for being a source of continuity and growth for the club.

Like many organizations today that are trying to remain viable and draw in new participants, the club underwent changes to make the square dance experience more enjoyable, with the hope that more people attend.  Keep in mind no organization can satisfy everyone; but an attempt to create the widest appeal has been the approach. One such change, turning the Saturday combo dances, like this one, into all-skate dancing resulted in an equal or increased attendance at all of these dances. Yes, a few people disagreed with this format – but if more people overall are coming out, it’s a change that has had a positive effect. Adding the potluck dinners was also met with favorable approval, in addition to be able to dance in an air-conditioned PS3 all year long; something some members have been waiting over 30 years to see happen. Perhaps because of this, the summer club nights saw an increased attendance in June, July, and August.

Another change instituted to increase opportunities for new people to try out square dancing, and maybe fall in love with it as many of us here havedone, was the creation of monthly open houses. Because of these, we were able to bring in more people. You may not have been aware, but each open house was unique. Different calls were taught at each of them, in order to create variety. This is something that has been used at other IAGSDC clubs, notably El Camino Reelers in California.

The change to a Blast weekend for Mainstream instruction also saw something that has been effective with other clubs, notably Chicago’s Chi-Town Squares. Condensing the teaching time to present all the calls in one weekend is challenging, but allows for a focused attention and attendance from students. The downside of this seems to be a decreased attendance by current members on the transformed Tuesday club nights. We’ll talk more about this shortly.

And so, while were able to bring in more people through the doors, we do have the continued challenge of keeping people actively participating after graduation. ON one hand, of the 20 new members in 2019, only 4 are here today.  We also have the continued challenge of promoting ourselves. On the other hand, 3 of the 6 Blast weekend graduates are here. While we do have many social media tools, ie. Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, Instagram, and Youtube, as well as our website, a consistent application of these tools is required. These tools work best when many people participate – kinda like having a full square of 8 dancers instead of three.

Now for something different. Of all the happenings throughout the year, the one I am personally most proud of is the new club t-shirt. An updated identity that allows all the members to appear that they belong to the same club was something on my to-do list when I joined the board of directors in 2018. At last year’s meeting, possible mock-ups were displayed. Ultimately, the committee recommended the t-shirt for its lower cost of production, and ease of re-ordering. Plus, it looks really great. The board did stipulate that a formal club shirt should be developed, and anyone who wants to make that happen is encouraged to form a committee.

In closing, I have to share one last set of data, which highlights our current growth.

In 2019, 15 dancers showed up for our first ‘event’ (a Thursday A2/C1) workshop. This year, there were 24 people.

Our second event, last year’s annual meeting, we had 37 members in attendance. This year, there are 47 members present.

The next event, last year it was a Tuesday MS Finishing class saw 28 people on the dance floor. This year it will be a club night. And the bar has been set for you.

Thank you.