Last Saturday the McCloud Dance Hall on the corner of Pine St. and Broadway opened its doors for the first time for a ‘BBQ Meat and Greet.’. Dancing to live music once again, the local community came to what was known as Dance Country for a ‘soft opening,’ hosted by the new owners, Kristen Cunningham and her business partner Crisbin Barrymore.
People toured the building, shared old stories about the Dance Hall over dinner, and then danced to the music of Micro Mistic and McCloud’s own Monkey-Lash band.
People said they enjoyed the evening and want to support one of McCloud’s original hotspots for fun that is now coming back to life.
After a year of squatters taking over the building when the last owner, John Rickard passed away and his wife Melissa became ill, there was lots of damage and historic items taken or destroyed. The new owners have been working hard on cleaning up the destruction and preserving what is left with the help of many locals that have come together to help and become good friends with Kristen and Crisbin.
Kristen Cunningham says, “We bought the building in August 2022 and we are grandfathering in the scheduled workshops of this season. That includes the Burning Tango Festival, the Yogi people, John Wineland’s workshop, and square dancing. In between we will keep working on improvements.”
Where do you start with such a big project?
For the last three weeks, they have had a crew sanding the 5,000 sq ft maple hardwood floor of the dance hall and they are not done yet. For the first time, there is hot water in the downstairs restrooms but there is a lot more plumbing to be done. Between retreats, there will be construction on the roof and the foundation, fixing the water damage, and painting the exterior.
“Just cleaning the floors and scrubbing the walls has made the building so much brighter,”Says Cunningham.
“This open house is a practice run. This is a rewarding soul-work passion for me. It takes a community to make a team to work together and honor all who help make this building work through the years.”
When the mill owned the town, the Dance Hall was for dances and events. Locals still talk about the local favorite band that was popular back then called the Hot-n-Tots. It later was used by the Free Masons from 1918 to 1976 conducting their secret meetings upstairs.
Dave and Suzanne Abbott bought the building from the Masonic Temple in SanFransisco in 1986. They first bought the original cafeteria which was called McCloud Cookhouse, at the top end of Main Street in McCloud as a place for square dancing since Dave was a square dance caller and square dancing was their passion. They lived in Redding at the time and wanted a place out of the heat. When the Dance Hall went up on the market, they bought it because they needed a bigger place for their square dancing retreats. They built the RV Country campground in 1980 so out-of-towners had a place to stay during the retreats.
The Abbotts found McCloud when they came up to watch the movie Baby Blue Marine when it was being filmed in hopes to see some movie stars and fell in love with the town. Along with the RV park, and Dance Hall, they also built the Blue Star Memorial in 2002 in honor of Suzanne’s parents. It is the little garden and flag pole on the highway at the entrance of McCloud for veterans. They buy a new American flag for it every year.
The Dance Hall was built in 1906. It still has the hand stenciling on the pillars that was done in the 1920s.
The Rickards bought the Dance Hall 25 years ago and the Abbotts carried the note for it. They kept it as the Dance Country Hall and continued having retreats in it. Melissa also opened a little art/gift store in it as well. Both the Abbotts and the Rickards lived upstairs during the times they owned the building.
the new owners, “We are so delighted Kristen has the building. It is in the perfect hands. She is going to make it great again. We are on the sidelines cheering her on. It is people like her that make McCloud such a special place. It makes me want to cry happy tears.:”Suzanne Abbott says
Kristen Cunningham is the mover and shaker of the Dance Hall project. She says, “I have been coming up here through the years and these people are my people. Music brings people of different cultures together. it is sacred. The energy of the dance floor brings people together and connects people. I don’t need a crystal ball and sage, just give me some good sound and a base. ”
Kristen refers to herself as a raver from Gen X. She has traveled the world meeting people through music and dance. “This building is a temple of empowerment and healing. I want to book all kinds of music retreats; weddings, and community events”
Community members come together over dinner at the McCloud Dance Hall “Meat and Greet” to talk about the building in the old days and see what the new owners are doing with it now and to give their support.
McCloud Dance Hall owner Kristen Cunningham (top right) with her new friends that are helping with the building; Manny from Mt. Shasta who is the maintenance manager, Karen who is the building’s manager of the McCloud Dance Hall, and friend Victoria who also helps out.
People from the McCloud Dance Hall ‘Meat and Greet’ dance in the 5,000 square foot room to live music which will soon be a common hot spot again in McCloud as the new owners bring the historic building back to life.
Chefs Travis Olexiewicz and Jeff Durand barbequed for the McCloud Dance Hall’s “Meat and Greet.” They cooked up different kinds of meat on their portable BBQ and prepared everything in the hall’s large kitchen area.
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