This country dancing blog has been a fun pastime and hobby for me to add to my country dancing journey. And along the way, it has sort of taken twists and turns that I didn’t really expect! As I meet people and attend different events etc. it often inspires the next post! Also, I’ve been asking for a while for contributions: writers for the blog to help me out! Well, today I’m excited to see that idea come to fruition in a cool way.
I’ve met a new friend dancing lately named Gregg (yes, w/ 2 gs!). I’ve been so impressed by his over-the-top enthusiasm for dancing. My friend Dori thought I should interview him for the blog. At first, I really wasn’t interested in doing that, but then this happened…
Gregg went country dancing 13 nights in a row!
He started talking about it around night 9 or 10 and now has finished his streak at 13! I just thought this was fun and the coolest thing and something Y’all needed to know about! I mean, who amongst us lovers of country dancing has danced 13 nights or more in a row!? Well, for sure not me!
I asked Gregg if I could tell the world about this cool achievement and he was so kind to document it for me! But besides the rundown of where he went and how he did it, as a bonus to follow is his story of becoming a country dancer and a grateful participant in the local dance community! I love his story, which I’m sure has some similarity to our own stories of falling in love with this fun pastime!
He is a surfer turned country dancer! How cool is that?! But first here are the details of the streak! So, introducing now Gregg Tomchick folks! Gregg will take it from here….
A Country Night Dancing Streak!
I’m wrapping up a 13-night-in-a-row dancing streak! I never intended to go out this much, but work is slow, I’m single, I caught the country dancing bug….and this is what can happen if you’re not careful!… LOL!
It all started on a cold rainy night in November…..
1. Tues 11/8: Elks Lodge 2 hours
2. Wed 11/9 Cowboy Country 5 hours
3. Thurs 11/10 Gaslamp 3 hours
4. Friday 11/11 The Ranch 5 hours
5. Saturday 11/12 The Ranch 4 hours
6. Sunday 11/13 The Starting Gate 4 hours
7. Monday 11/14 Cowboy Country-Cindi’s lessons 2 hours
8. Tuesday 11/15 Elks Lodge 4 hours
9. Wed 11/16 Cowboy Country 3 hours
10. Thurs 11/17 Gaslamp 4 hours
11. Friday 11/18 The Ranch 4 hours
12. Saturday 11/19 The Ranch 4 hours
13. Sunday 11/20 Elks Lodge-Swing Dancing – Streak Ends at 13 Straight Nights!
Epilogue: My right calf is so tight I can’t walk, I learned two new line dances and two new couples dances, I’ve made 10 new friends, and I have a big smile on my face. Would I ever do it again?? HELL………..YES!! But next time I want company!! Who’s in??? – Gregg
Country Dancer Spotlight – Gregg Tomchick: From Surfer to Country Dancer!
I’m 62, and I’ve always loved to dance! It started in my 20s, and I was fortunate to come of dancing age during the New Wave music dancing boom of the 1980s! Red Onion Fullerton was our spot, and it was our standard practice to “close” the place when the lights would come on at 2 am and everyone left.
The 80s wound down, and soon the only dancing I was doing was at weddings or occasions. I fell in love with Phoenix Club Octoberfest in Anaheim, where I went every year and danced the polka, waltz, fox trot, and of course, The Chicken Dance! It was at Octoberfest that I was introduced to and fell in love with the Electric Slide Line Dance. However, I only danced every October, and when Octoberfest ended every year, it was a sad occasion. Knowing I was done dancing for another 10 months. I was pretty naive and didn’t realize or know that there were other dance opportunities out there.
I have been a country music fan since I was 20 in 1980. I was commuting from Anaheim to Los Angeles every day and stuck in traffic, I started needing more musical variety besides rock and roll to kill the time. I flipped the channels and came across “Never could tow the mark” by Waylon Jennings, and was hooked immediately. It must have touched me, as I still remember that song and that day! Soon I was listening to Country instead of Rock & Roll. Much to the chagrin of my buddies and my girlfriend who all thought I was nuts.
Fast forward from the 1990s to May 2022. I’ve been surfing for 48 years, and for the last 32 years, I’ve been parking and surfing at Bolsa Chica Beach Lifeguard Tower 21. There is a large snack bar/restaurant just north of where I park called “Sea Salt”, and during the summer they have classic rock bands Fridays and Saturdays, and “Country Sundays” all summer long with free line dance lessons from 12-1:30, line dancing from 1:30-3 pm, and a live country band at 3 pm. We surfed in the mornings, and I’m usually gone by 11 am. However, one day in the middle of May 2022, I stayed late for some reason, saw all the people over at Sea Salt, and ventured on over. Little did I know my life was about to change!
I arrived about 2 pm after the lessons were already over, and the large concrete patio was surrounded by lots of people watching, and the patio was filled with line dancers twirling to “Cold Heart” by Elton John and Dua Lipa. As the chorus rang “and I think it’s gonna be a long long time” the dancers moved in unison, and I was completely blown away by the crowd, the sun, the beach, the dancing, and the music.
I could not believe my eyes at the amount of energy and fun that this place was exuding. I watched in complete awe for quite a while. I don’t know if it was fate, but a woman walked by and said, “there are free line dance lessons from 12-1:30 pm, you should come back next week!” At that moment, it was on!
I arrived nervous and early at 11:45 the very next Sunday and was immediately welcomed in by all the veteran dancers. My nerves were dashed, and the fun began! The very first dance I learned was the beginner standard “Cowboy Up”. I was hooked! I started coming every Sunday and started meeting more wonderful people! At this time, I became introduced to Cindi Massengale. She was teaching the line dances at Sea Salt, and I was immediately taken in by her warmth, knowledge, attention to detail, kindness, and lessons.
To this day, I think I am happiest when I’m in one of Cindi’s classes. She had an email sign-up sheet, which I signed up for, and soon I began getting her weekly emails. These emails were, and still are, instrumental in my progression. She sends them out every Sunday, and I look forward to them. They contain so much information about her classes and upcoming events! Plus, everyone is getting them, so our entire dancing community is on the same page and up to date about upcoming events!
I showed up in May, and Cindi’s emails indicated that her next 9-week line dance series would begin on June 20th, which is my birthday! I signed up immediately for the beginner group, and it was a birthday treat to go to my first formal group lesson with Cindi, and it was also the very first time I ever went to Cowboy Country! They are not open on Cindi’s Monday night classes, but I got to see the place.
I went dancing at Sea Salt every Sunday, and slowly began to realize that the local country dance scene is like a small town, where you start seeing all the same people, and everyone knows everyone. This makes it so easy to make new friends, and everyone is so nice!
So I’m at Sea Salt, and I keep hearing, “you gotta go to Gaslamp on Thursday night, that’s where the dancing is!” So I put on my jeans and tennis shoes one night and went. I had the most wonderful time! This was the very first time I went to a club and quickly realized tennis shoes were not the fashion. I had a pair of black Dan Post cowboy boots I bought for a HS reunion in the 1990s and dug them out. They still fit and were like new! The next time I went to Gaslamp, I proudly wore my cowboy boots. The transformation from surfer to country dancer was beginning.
So now I’m at Gaslamp, and I keep hearing, “you gotta go to Cowboy Country, that’s where the real dancing is!” So, slightly intimidated, I went one night. And had a wonderful time! Until that night, I only knew of and had been 100% focused on line dancing. However, as I sat there that night, the band called out “Two Step”, and they launched into a loud cover of Merle Haggard’s “Makeup and Faded Blue Jeans”, a song I’ve always loved.
Next thing I know, every cooler-than-hell cowboy with a hat and belt buckle went onto the floor with their beautiful partners and began to twirl away in the counterclockwise circle to the tune of that loud Merle Haggard song! I was completely blown away! At that moment I realized that I had no idea the country dancing scene was thriving, and all happening right under my nose, and I didn’t even know about it. I became immediately grateful to have found out about this, and I knew right then that the Two Step is what I wanted to do most!
So the very next week, I’m back at Cowboy Country and I’m out there counting “quick-quick slow-slow” to Waylon’s Ramblin Man, which is a fast one! I was going at maybe half speed, not even to the beat, and my dance partner was laughing at me. I think she was embarrassed, but I was too naive to be embarrassed. Later on, I realized I was gonna be paying some dues if I was going to learn the Two Step. Embarrassment and a laughing partner were a good way to start!
I took every group lesson I could but was not quite getting it. Fortunately, in September, I found Shelly Graham at the Ranch who began giving me private Two Step lessons. This is when I finally learned how to hear the beat and do the Two Step. I’ve had about six Two Step lessons now and can do several twirls and sweetheart and cuddle positions. One gentleman who used to do Two Step competitions told me “Gregg, Rome was not built in a day”. Sound advice that echoes in my head every day!
I’m a Two Step novice and will be for some time, but at least I’m out on the floor instead of watching! I’m still in Cindi’s Monday night classes, and just completed her Fall 9-week intermediate series. I now know approximately 15 line dances, 6 partner dances, and the Two Step. By the grace of God, I’ve come a long way in 6 months! It has been so wonderful to have stumbled into the country dancing scene 6 months ago, and there is a multitude of blessings.
First and foremost, are all the good friends I’ve made, which at this point number approximately 75 people! It is so fun to hang out and talk beside the dance floor, do lessons together, and most of all, be out there dancing together. It is very special! Second, I would have to say is all of the good music, DJs, and live bands! A big shout-out to DJ Coral Rodriguez at Gaslamp, and DJ Goodtime Gordie at Cowboy Country and the Elks Lodge.
Getting to know Coral and Gordie has been another wonderful part of my journey. They get so many song requests, but somehow manage to keep everyone happy. And, they always play my newbie line dance requests! Thank you!! Also, who doesn’t love hearing their voices on the speaker when they call out the next song and dance! Thirdly would be all the nice dancing venues we have here in Long Beach and Orange County, and lastly would probably be the exercise you get dancing!
Another cool thing about Gordie is watching him fill in with bands on percussion playing the washboard and cowbell!! Multi-talented indeed. I stumbled into the country dancing scene at the age of 62. Better late than never, and I’m hoping to be out on the dance floor for many years to come. Thank you to all my new friends! God Bless.
– Gregg Tomchick
I’m so sad to add this, but I wanted to mention that we lost our great new friend to cancer in mid-December. So many of us have been just so at a loss and sad trying to process his sudden passing. As you can see from his bio he wrote, he was fairly new to dancing but was so excited to get involved and was making new friends fast at The Ranch, The Gaslamp, and Cowboy Country. He had such a fearless and contagious enthusiasm for learning Two Step, all the partner dances, and line dances. We will miss him so much.
It has been hard going dancing lately and moving on when the plan was that he was going to be there joining in on the fun for a long time to come.
Truly this great sweet man will be missed. So much future dancing and good times cut way too short. Also, see Gregg’s published obituary if interested here: https://www.shannonfamilymortuary.com/obit…/Gregg-Tomchick
But in honor of him, some of us that knew him thought it would be cool to accept his challenge to beat his record of dancing 13 straight nights! Remember he said, “Who’s In?” So….WE’RE DOING IT! STARTING NEXT MONDAY 1/23. If you knew Gregg and want to celebrate him join us dancing! I know this might be impossible for most to actually do, so we’re at least going to try to do it collectively as a group! Here’s the plan:
We’ll hit all the places that he went! Starting with Cindi’s Line Dance Class at Cowboy Country on January 23rd, and ending on the 14th day at the Starting Gate on Sunday, February 5th.
One Thing Gregg Was Excited About…
Unfortunately, Gregg’s cool story is here now as a remembrance. I will leave it here! But, just so you know… he wrote this to me after I published this:
I think Dancer Spotlights could be an exciting traffic-driving new feature for you.
Personally, I’m hoping you get some good stories! I would love to read about our friends and your subscribers. I think dancer stories is going to be really interesting! There is an ocean of Dancer Spotlight stories out there!
So the ask is still here for more stories! And I agree with Gregg, I bet there are some great stories out there. I would love to hear and publish for others to know and enjoy! Email me at [email protected]!
One last thing! If you want to come dancing with us to celebrate Gregg’s life. Here’s a map showing off the local Southern California dancing venues that we’ll be at:
Cowboy Country, Long Beach
The Gaslamp, Long Beach
The Elks Lodge, Buena Park
The Ranch, Anaheim
The Starting Gate, Los Alamitos