David's enthusiasm for helping people have fun has inspired dancers, dance organizers and musicians for years. His encouragement of everyone to jump in and give it a try made it easy for people to take part, in so many ways.
David Kaynor—midwife to the Capital City Grange
Besides all of the great dances David called at the Montpelier VT contra dance series over the decades...David was a vital part of the transition of the Capital City Grange. The Montpelier dance found a home at the Grange Hall starting around 1983; by the late 1990s the old Grange members were having trouble keeping the Grange going. They were prepared to entertain offers to sell the Grange Hall to a restaurant or funeral home—unless Grange Hall users were prepared to take on Grange membership and responsibilities. Who could we better turn to for advice and encouragement than David Kaynor?
We all knew that David was a major part of the Guiding Star Grange in Greenfield, Massachusetts, which made a similar transition—and of course he was more than willing to hold our hands as we took our first steps toward replicating the success of Guiding Star Grange #1. He reassured us that we could do this, told us how friendly and welcoming the “traditional Grangers” were to the dancers who joined and took on offices at Guiding Star, and made the Grange's meeting rituals sound more like fun and less like a straitjacket!
When the time came in 2005 for a mass initiation of new Grange members—about 70!—we planned it for a Saturday afternoon and evening, preceding the contra dance. David, of course, was scheduled to call the dance. And, of course, he was eager to come early and take part in the Grange exemplification of the first 4 Degrees of Grange membership. Because the Vermont State Grange gathered dozens of Grange members from all over the state to take part, neither David nor I was needed to fill an officers' chair (I had joined the Grange a few years before). So we sat and enjoyed the spectacle, as “sample sets” of new Grangers were led around the Hall, at times blindfolded, at times following older Grangers wearing overalls and straw hats, aprons and bonnets. Then we had a wonderful potluck dinner—another traditional Grange activity, and David was happy to take part.
After the dinner and the final rituals, David stood on the dance floor with his fiddle, and organized old and new Grange members into a circle of couples—and led us in a Grand March! It brought us all together, emphasizing the unity and cooperation that made it possible for us to work together. He told us later that this was the first time he had called one himself....but of course he carried it off with panache and good humor, and a great time was had by all! Here are couple of pictures of David at this event—some grainy, but all bringing back memories:
After a great start like that, the new Grange members jumped into the work—coming to meetings, learning the rituals, and getting ready to take on responsibilities. At the next Grange elections, most of the offices were filled with new faces, and I was asked to take over as Master from Les Skinner, who had amply filled it for over 15 years. David was always willing to give advice and encouragement via email, phone call or on his regular visits to call dances.
Fast forward a decade or more, and we had a functioning Grange, and also a “Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall” partner organization—also modeled on the similar 501(c)(3) body at Guiding Star. The FCCGH put on a couple of Family Fun Days at the Grange, to engage local families and help build public awareness of the Hall and the Grange. By this time, David had also taken over as the second Director of the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra, an aggregation of dozens of amateur fiddlers who rehearse and perform together in an awe-inspiring big band. He was happy to get a subset of the VFO to play for a family dance as part of the Family Fun Day in 2016 and 2017. Here are a couple more photos of him, calling the dances and playing fiddle and conducting the orchestra. In both cases, people of a variety of sizes (and dance experience) are having a great time—almost as much fun as David is having, as the impresario who is helping them enjoy the music and the movement!
David also welcomed musicians of all levels to join in the fun of playing for dances—not just the VFO members shown. Below is a photo taken by Ellen Brucker Marshall, one of the many who joined David on the stage to play for dances at the Grange Hall:
We all miss being able to dance together these days—but we can all conjure up memories of David's enjoyment, good humor and ability to get anyone to have a good time moving to music.
There are lots more great memories from over the years:
- David was playing fiddle for one of the contra dances, with a couple of other great musicians, with equally gray hair. It was a pickup band, with no name. The idea of coming up with a band name was being bandied about by the musicians during set-up for the dance, and everyone agreed that David's suggestion was the best: 3 Skinny-Ass White Guys. I don't know that they ever used that title...but it still makes a vivid mental image for me!
- Another time, David came to our house before the dance, and I vividly remember him peeling and eating a few garlic cloves, raw, to get rid of a cold before calling the dance. I've never been brave enough to try it myself.
- David often played at our dances in January, either at the beginning or the end of a week-long stay at Sterling College in Craftsbury, VT, under the auspices of Road Scholar, where along with George Wilson he taught and led contra dances in the evenings, and cross-country skiing during the days.
Everyone involved with the Capital City Grange, the Contra Dance Umbrella (organizers of the Montpelier Contra Dance series), and all the dancers send congratulations to David on this award, which he richly deserves.