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SILKY SMOOTH SENIORS

  • Donna McCowen of Christopher and Richard Phillips of Benton glide across the dance floor at the Gwen Wynn Senior Center in Benton, where couples and individuals gather on Tuesday and Thursday nights to dance to country and popular dance tunes.

    Donna McCowen of Christopher and Richard Phillips of Benton glide across the dance floor at the Gwen Wynn Senior Center in Benton, where couples and individuals gather on Tuesday and Thursday nights to dance to country and popular dance tunes.
    Ceasar Maragni Photo

  • The band Encore, featuring Joey DeNeal, above, on lead guitar and Larry Nolan, left, on steel guitar, can usually be found providing the dance music each Tuesday evening at the Gwen Wynn Senior Center in Benton.

    The band Encore, featuring Joey DeNeal, above, on lead guitar and Larry Nolan, left, on steel guitar, can usually be found providing the dance music each Tuesday evening at the Gwen Wynn Senior Center in Benton.
    Ceasar Maragni Photo

 
By Ceasar Maragni
Contributing Writer
Posted on 8/7/2019, 2:59 PM

They gather two nights a week at the Gwen Wynn Senior Center in Benton to dance, laugh, eat and enjoy one another.

But mostly they dance.

The youngest person in the room is just 20 years old, he's in the band, and he's decades younger than anyone else in the dance hall this particular evening.

Once the house band, Encore, begins playing its own special blend of western swing and golden oldies at 6:30 sharp, you had better guide your dance partner onto the floor, or you're apt to have trouble finding a space to cut a rug.

It's a happy scene each Tuesday and Thursday evening at the popular Benton night spot, and one that the band members say they love playing for.

"We've been playing to this crowd for several years now," steel guitar player Larry Dolan said. "There's usually anywhere from 50 to 70 people here every Tuesday and Thursday, and we just love playing for them. They really love to dance!"

Admission is $5 per person, but that entry fee comes with a bonus. It turns out that nearly everyone of the seniors in attendance arrives carrying a homemade entree, side dish or desert for when the band takes their intermission break around 7:30.

That's when the always smiling Libby Sanders of Benton takes over. She is in charge of making sure the hot food stays hot and the cold dishes stay cold until the band pauses for intermission.

That's when the dancers transition into diners, with Sanders always making sure that the band members get to be the first ones in line. "They deserve it -- they work hard so the rest of us can have fun!" she said.

Following the meal break, it's back to the bandstand for Encore and back to the floor for the dancers.

Some like Kitty Laing of Benton have been attending and dancing there two nights a week for several years running. She says it's great exercise, "We have so much fun and dancing is actually very good for you."