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A Salute To the Blackfords

by Sandi & Dan Finch

The news got out early this year that Wayne & Barbara Blackford came down with the Covid-19 virus. They both tested positive after an accidental exposure. Wayne only got the sniffles, according to family, but Barbara was hospitalized January 6 and only came home in early February.

They have been teachers and choreographers for more than 40 years, and are the ONLY round dance leaders to have received all five top awards given by the round dance community. They were bicoastal, living and teaching in Mesa, AZ, during the winter dance season there, and the rest of the year they were at home in Jacksonville, FL. Last week, Wayne and his son-in-law went to Mesa to close up and dispose of their Tower Point home there.

Word got out that they are retiring. Ah, not so. Barbara expects to recover and continue teaching on the East Coast, according to family.

They apparently became exposed during the Christmas holidays. Barbara became ill, but not with typical Covid symptoms. She had pain in her lower back and a kidney problem. Wayne took her to the hospital twice between Christmas and New Years and both times the doctors refused to test her for Covid because of her lack of symptoms. As her condition worsened, their daughter insisted she try another hospital, and Barbara was quickly tested and admitted. She is still on oxygen, according to her daughter, but is able to get around for now with a walker.

Blackfords, 1983The Blackfords (pictured in 1983 and again more recently) have served several terms on the Roundalab board of directors. They are also one of six teaching couples currently named as Roundalab mini-lab clinicians, qualified to put on weekend seminars under the Roundalab name. She was Roundalab’s Standardization Coordinator for seven years, responsible for the Roundalab Manual of Standards.

They are the only round dance leaders to have received all three of Roundalab’s top round dance awards: the Silver Halo Award in 2005 for service to the round dance activity, the Silver Circle Award in 1998 for service to Roundalab, and the Distinguished Service Award in 1992 for work on the original RAL videotape project. Their phase IV Rainbow Foxtrot was named to the ICBDA Hall of Fame in 2015, and they were presented the ICBDA Golden Torch Award in 2010 for contributions to round dancing over a period of years.

They met in 1959 when Wayne was in the Air Force, married a year later and were introduced to square dancing in 1964. In a 2003 Roundalab Journal interview, they admitted they were so enamored with square dancing that they wore buttons with their fellow square dancers that read “Stamp Out Rounds.” That changed when they started round dancing in 1972.

When the local round dance leader in the Jacksonville, FL, area moved out of the city, the Blackfords were encouraged by Charlie & Madeline Lovelace to start cueing and teaching. They started the Sunshine Sweetheart Club in 1975, taught three nights a week, and formed a demo team called The Reflections that performed at several national square dance conventions and other festivals around the Southeast. They took up part-time residence in Mesa in 1991 and began teaching there. Wayne owned an auto repair shop, Barbara was his bookkeeper until he retired that business in 1997.

BlackfordsThey were part of Roundalab’s onetime Roundalab Teaching Coaches (RTC) program, seeing their mission to help educate other teachers. They also were staff for six years on the East Coast Leaders College with Ralph & Joan Collipi, a one-week training program for new round dance leaders.

They believed it is important for all teachers to continue their education, and they worked with their own coaches regularly. Their philosophy—printed in the Round Dancer Magazine of October 1983 when they were that month’s Kover Kids—was “You can never know it all and you can always learn something from everyone.”

From a club newsletter, February 2021, and reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, April 2021. Find a DRDC Finch archive here.


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