Traditions: The Elimination Dance and Grand March at Skytop Lodge

I've been going to Skytop ( since before I was born.  (Now that's a story!)  My family has a long history of vacations in this elegant resort tucked away in the Pocono Mountains (though not as long as some families who have been going since the resort opened in the 1920s).  It is a wonderful place to visit to relax in my book.  (Though there is plenty to do if you want to be active.)  There is a "feel" to the place that cannot be must be experience.  (There are also scents that are unique to the resort as well.)

I could go on, but I think I should reserve that for another blog post.  What I want to talk about here and now is one of the sweetest (although some might say corniest) traditions at Skytop that has been going on every Saturday night (as far as I can tell) since the resort first opened:  the Elimination Dance and Grand March.

Saturday nights are special at Skytop; there is a live band and dancing that hearkens back to a bygone age.  But dancing doesn't just mean couples doing the box step; it means families getting out on the dance floor and having fun.  You can have "older/formal" dancing along with "newer" dancing and everyone has a good time.  There is always laughter and love on the dance floor.  But the fun hits a peak with the Elimination Dance and Grand March.  Both are easy to do...that is IF you follow directions.

Sadly these days’ people are often too caught up in their own world to pay attention.  This makes running the march harder for the social team at Skytop and also takes away from some of the fun for the rest.  So, put on your dancing shoes, here how it goes!

The Elimination Dance:  
  • Numbers (1-4) are hung from posts in the Pine Room  and the "Wheel of Fortune" is brought out.
  • Couples take to the dance floor
  • When the music stops, couples go to one of the numbered posts (1-4).  BOTH dance partners need to be on the same post.  To have one on number 1 and the other on 4 is CHEATING!
  • The wheel is spun. Those who are at the number that it lands on are eliminated and should leave the dance floor.
  • This continues as more couples are eliminated.  In order to not drag the process out too long, sometimes the game is changed to odd/even.  For example, if the social team calls odds and the wheel of fortune lands on 3, couples on 1 and 3 are eliminated.
  • When there are four or less couples left, each couple is asked to select a numbered post.  The wheel is spun and this time the couple that has selected that number is the winner.  They receive a small prize and the privilege of leading the Grand March.
The Grand March
  • Couples line up facing the Windsor Dining Room.  The winning couple is the head of the line. One of the social staff stands at the front/head, while another stands at the back/end.  (And if there's another to make sure everyone is lined up properly it's a good thing.  There is a reason why this is couples and keeping everyone "in line" is no easy task particularly when you consider that it's usually about 10 PM when the Grand March begins and you have hyped up/overtired kids and adults who may have imbibed a little too much cheer.)
  • Music starts.  Social staff at the front of the line directs couples to march to the back of the room (by the fireplace) by either going left or right.  (Usually first couple goes to the left, second goes to the right, and third goes left and so on.)
  • When couples reach the back of the room, they head up the center again (as directed by the social staff person "stationed" there).
  • When they reach the front, they are once again directed to go left or right.
  • USUALLY when they reach the back of the room, they are then "hooked" up with the couple coming from the opposite side.  So now the couple becomes a foursome.  (Sometimes this does not happen on the 2nd pass...which is why it is important to pay attention.  It's also why it's important that couples stay together.)
  • The foursomes now head back to the front and are directed to go left or right.
  • Usually after another pass, the foursome is hooked up with another foursome, so the group becomes eight. It depends on the evening and how the march is going (Is everyone paying attention?) The octet heads back to the front of the line.
  • At this point, the social staff at the front halts everyone (you should march in place) until EVERYONE is lined up properly.
  • When there is a straight line of octets (or foursomes if octets were not possible), the social staff at the head of the line take the hand of person on the left side of the first set of people in the line and leads them serpentine THROUGH the line.
  • The idea is that the last person in the octet or foursome takes the hand of the first person in the next group back.   The social staff person leading winds everyone in and out of everyone else.  (And this is why it's really important to pay attention.   Also why you should try NOT to have sweaty palms!)
  • When everyone is "hooked" up, the social staff leading the line takes you through the Library Lounge, through the North Card room, out back to the Pine room, out the doors and onto the South porch, around the porch, back into the Pine room, past the front desk (be sure to ring the bell!), out to North porch, around the porch, back into the Pine room, back to the front of the Pine room and finally towards the back of the Pine room.  But none of this is done in a "straight line;" this "giant snake" of people curves in and around until everyone ends up in middle of the dance floor.  By this time everyone is sweaty, singing (all of the music played by the band during the Grand March and tunes that we all know such as "I've Been Working on the Railroad," "God Bless American," etc.) and having a darned good time.  (One thing to note:  the staff at Skytop are extremely conscientious.  As you go in and out of the building, there are always someone stationed at the doors to hold them open and make sure no one trips.)
Now if you've made it thus far, you may think that by breaking the whole thing down, I've actually made it more complicated.  You're probably right.  It's easy and FUN, but is best done when everyone follows along.  So my advice is for anyone whose plans on doing the Grand March at Skytop (and you SHOULD do it...its tradition!) is:
1.     Pay attention
2.     Follow directions
3.     Let yourself go and have fun!  (And don't forget to ring the bell when you march by the front desk!)

(Note:  There are a variety of videos on YouTube that show the Grand March being done.  It will give you an idea of what it's like...and show you how NOT to follow directions!)


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