Block Dance on its feet again in Hinsdale

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HINSDALE — After a four-year hiatus, a popular, footloose community event returns this weekend to entertain residents and visitors.

The Hinsdale Block Dance kicks off 5 p.m. Saturday and runs until midnight on the grounds of the Hinsdale Fire Station.

It will be the third incarnation of a celebration dating back to the 1950s when the center of town would be closed off for the nighttime affair. Sponsored by Hinsdale volunteer firefighters, the block party was a prelude to the annual firefighters' muster.

At its height in the 1960s and `70s, the competition would draw 20 to 25 volunteer fire departments from around New England and New York, according to Steve Suriner, the event's coordinator and a Hinsdale firefighter.

The dance and muster fell by the wayside in the late 1970s, Suriner said, before the muster was revived in 1999 and the dance restarted a year later. The second coming of the summer gathering peaked in the town's bicentennial year of 2004 with the debut of a fireworks display witnessed by an estimated 3,000 people.

The mark-your-calendar event was more popular than ever during the second go-around, Suriner said.

"I even got a call one year from a family in Oregon who wanted to schedule their summer vacation around the block dance so they could see everyone they grew up with in Hinsdale," he said.

However, interest waned in staging the event, after supporters dwindled to a handful of hardcore organizers who ended the event after 2015.

But over the past winter, residents rekindled interest in the dance aspect of the event, leading to the formation of a 22-person Hinsdale Block Dance Committee.

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"About 75 percent of our volunteers have never been involved in this," Suriner said. "People simply wanted to see the block dance come back. The community is really behind us."

In addition, the committee lined up 43 area businesses to sponsor the dance.

The committee features local firefighters, members of the Hinsdale Police Department and Hinsdale Dayz Committee, which grew out of the town's bicentennial.

Hinsdale Dayz stages its own events throughout the year and welcomed the chance to reboot the block dance.

"We're all working as a community to pull this together," said the group's chairwoman, Carole Forward. "We expect to bring people from Peru and surrounding communities."

Organizers say the 2019 block dance differs from previous ones as it won't spill out into the streets. Bands will perform behind the fire station at 134 Maple St.

Suriner says attendees can expect four local bands, food and beverage vendors, kid-friendly activities, including bounce houses, games, face-painting and fireworks.

Featured bands, in order of appearance, are Lulu and the Shoemakers, Shyne, The Remedy and Whiskey City.

Surnier says admission is being kept to the 2015 prices of $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. The dance committee will donate $1 from each paid admission to the Jimmy Fund, the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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