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Kicking up heels -country style

Lakeside Resort offers seniors
a special place to exercise, meet
friends and just have fun.
story and photos by Jill Worthington
Well-dressed couples dancing cheek to cheek on a hard wood floor to music that won't break the ear drums, with no alcohol or the bad behavior that can go along with. A vision from days gone by?
Well yes and no. Lakeside Danceland had been around for along time, so this sight harkens back to the good old days, but it's happening every Saturday night.
About half an hour's drive north east of London sits the village of Lakeside, Ontario. It has a natural spring-fed lake, rumored to have been a stopping off place for area Indians as they traveled to and from hunting grounds. Arrowheads have been found on the lake's northeast corner.
Part of this popular cottage/camping spot since the early 1930's is the Lakeside Danceland. Arnold and Fran Pearson have owned the property, which includes a campground and day-use beach, since 1984, but sold it in the mid nineties and then re-established ownership a few years later.

This couple, who are in there mid-sixties, offers just what seniors want in a quality entertainment environment. The weekly dances appeal to couple ranging in age from 40 to 75 plus. Each Saturday night. 250 to 300 people gather to kick up their heels from 8:00 to midnight- many of whom are regulars and come very week.
Why do these devoted dancers trek in from London, Chatham, Sarnia and the Niagara area? "They love our cushioned, hardwood floor," says AR. "Those are getting hard to find."
These sentiments are echoed by many of the regulars, who come every week unless they have a family obligation with the kids or grandkids. Many of these folks have been coming to Lakeside to dance since it had an open-air pavilion and jitney dances.
Jitney dancing was a popular phenomenon in the early part of the last century. At Lakeside, according to Arn, a fellow would buy tickets for a dime or quarter than take his best gal for a twirl on the roped-off dance floor.
Three dances per ticket and the floor were emptied between each set of dances.

The Royalaires are an area brass band that offers big band-type swing music now at Lakeside, but the majority of the southern and southwestern Ontario talent that plays this venue is traditionally country.

The Country Versatiles, the Beckett Family, the Pierce Family, Bill Beattie Band and one of their most popular acts, the Scott Woods Band, all offer the kind of country sound that appeals to Danceland's demographic - easy to dance to, easy on the ears.

According to Arnold, the dance enthusiasts that pack his establishment each week are a health-conscious lot who look at this as an opportunity to supplement their active lifestyle.
Charley and Betty Hutcheson, who are 77 and 76 respectively, hail from Banner, Ontario are regulars. "We very seldom miss a week. We love this hardwood floor. This is the type of music that we like," says Betty.

Isabel and Roy Johnson of Woodstock echo these sentiments, as do Frank and Nicki Bell both 75, from London. "This old firefighter will be dancing her till I drop over," says Frank a retired platoon chief.

Love of dancing has played a big part in the Pearson's relationship. They met in 1983 at a singles dance at the hall in the area that's now defunct, called circle K.

A year later they bought the Lakeside dance/beach/camping property and have been dancing ever since!

Copyright©Lakeside Resort