The Great Canadian Barn Dance

First off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my fellow Canucks!  I hope you’ve stuffed yourselves full of turkey and cranberry sauce this weekend!

When I was a girl, I lived on a farm, so we never really vacationed much.  In the summer time, it was too busy.  In the late fall and winter, I was in school. There was the odd trip to the Annapolis Valley for apple grower field days in the summer. But I didn’t camp.

My husband’s family, on the other hand, camped A LOT. When we started dating, I suddenly learned what Coleman stoves and lanterns were for. How to put up a tent. The taste of bacon and eggs cooked in the outdoors. How you don’t touch the sides of the tent in the morning or when it rains or else you’ll get wet.  We moved out west and had kids and bought a bigger tent. Then we bought a tent trailer – a pop up that keeps us off the ground and has a table that works out dandy when it’s raining.  I love how I can leave my dishes and necessities in it and not have to pack them up every time.  It has burners but we still take the Coleman stove and use it unless it’s pouring down rain. It wouldn’t be camping without the camp stove.

One of my favourite camping trips ever was the summer before we left Alberta. We’d already spent a few weeks in the Shuswap area of British Columbia, but after being home a few days we felt the urge to hit the road again.  The husband left the destination up to me. I think for a while he regretted it, because I picked The Great Canadian Barn Dance  in Hillspring, Alberta – I think it was 2 or 3 nights camping and then a roast beef dinner and dance included.

Now my husband is a quiet guy.  The idea of going to a “group” dinner and then a barn dance earned me a few nasty looks. The girls, on the other hand, thought it sounded marvelous.

Southern Alberta is beautiful, and the campground was only a short drive from Waterton National Park. If you’re at all familiar, you’ll know that Waterton is on the Canadian side of the Montana Border and Glacier National Park. It’s absolutely stunning. And all around it is some of the most beautiful ranch country I’ve ever seen.

And the barn dance was great. First there was dinner – roast beef, potatoes, beans, coleslaw, buns….mmmm.  And Apple Crisp for dessert. Then there was the entertainment – the place is run by the Kunkel family and they’re all pretty talented. There’s an audience participation component (can you see my husband’s eyes roll again?) and wouldn’t you know he got chosen to play the “gut bucket” aka washtub bass. But he was a good sport.  After that the kids got a wagon ride around the place and then there was the dance itself.

Don’t worry if you don’t know how to two-step or line dance.  They’ll teach you.  They’ll teach you something called The Butterfly too.  A mutual friend taught me to two-step several years ago, but this was the first time my husband ever did it, and it was great. We left before it was over to put the kids to bed, but as we sat outside we could still hear the music.  We even shared a dance beneath the stars as the party ended.

Now that we live on the East Coast, we’ll probably never make it back there again. But I’m sure glad we went.  And glad we’ve got the memories. Heck, it even inspired one of my Romances that was out in 2009.

Our camping trips inspired lots of locations, sometimes just be exploring a part of Alberta or British Columbia and finding it particularly pretty.  Such is the case with my next Harlequin Romance, Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle.  It’s out in February, but it’s out this month in the UK as a Mills and Boon Cherish.