College homecoming and “Going Home, Normal IL

10 Oct

I spent this past weekend visiting my college alma mater, Illinois State University, in Normal, Illinois. And yes, there is nothing normal about Normal. Although the town I believe received its name because at one point the land grant college was Illinois State Normal University, first devised to train teachers. I was also attending a reunion with some former college friends who were part of a dance folk troupe, the American Heritage Dancers, under the guidance of R. Dwaine Goodwin, otherwise known as the “Head Hoofer”. It has been a few years, maybe 10 since I had visited ISU. And even longer, say 30 years, that I have seen any of the former members of the dance troupe. But it turned out to be a nice weekend in many respects. Well, maybe not so much for the football homecoming game the team lost to Southern Illinois, but at least the  ISU Redbirds bested the University of South Dakota when they visited Vermillion a couple of weeks ago.

I believe it’s been said you can never go home. But I think  one can at least visit and reminisce about fond experiences. I also find it amazing that years later, choosing a particular path in youth can somehow lead you to places in the future you never thought you would travel. The folk dance troupe gave many of us a chance to travel to Europe and participate in folk festivals and learn about foreign cultures. As a young person, this can be both daunting and profound. You start to realize there are many different people in the world representing many different ideas and opinions, but there is also some relative and similar truths in all this difference. I found the trips I made with the group beneficial and weirdly enough, helped me define a path for my future, although at the time, I had no idea that it would. Mr. Goodwin was a bit of task master when it came to performing dances to be shared over the pond with our distant neighbors, but with good purpose. We were representing our country, and dancers should always put their “best” foot forward. And when you are the guy, it is always nicer if you don’t step on the foot of your partner.

It was a nice weekend and fun to reconnect with old friends. Nice to see that people still had a fondness for the organization that bound us together for a few short years. I though was feeling a bit worn around the edges with an added 30 years and wasn’t able to stay up as late as some of the others did.


Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


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