STYLE

Boogie in the barn: North Dakota couple to continue 63-year-old Friday night dance tradition

04/09/2015 04:50 EDT | Updated 06/09/2015 05:59 EDT
FARGO, N.D. - A six-decade tradition of Friday night dances is staying alive at a Red River Valley farmstead after new owners decided to keep running the honky-tonk at Johnson's Barn.

Julie and Delon Cahoon initially had no such plans for the Johnson farm, about 35 miles northwest of Fargo.

"When we bought the property, we weren't planning on doing dances. We were looking for someplace to keep our cows," Julie Cahoon said. "We looked at the barn as a big place for storage. We never even thought about it."

The Cahoons were persuaded after attending the last three dances before the property changed hands. They saw people who came from 250 miles east and west, including a group that rode a bus from St. Cloud, Minnesota. They saw happy, well-behaved dancers, most of whom are between 17 and 25 years old, dressed to the country nines. And they saw 400 people line-dance to canned music when the band was on break.

"Have you ever seen these kids dance?" Julie Cahoon asked. "They're so good. They're out there jitterbugging and flipping people over their heads. It's so cool."

The venue near the town of Arthur was christened in 1952, Delon Cahoon said, when owner Herb Johnson was asked to sponsor a dance as a fundraiser for the local volunteer fire department. It cost less than a buck to get in, and wound up raising $850.

So he decided to try it again. Before long, Herb Johnson's barn on Friday nights was the place to be.

Nowadays, it's a $10 entry fee. And the name going forward will be Arthur's Barn. The first dance under new ownership, on Friday night, features a band called Jacked Up — which Delon Cahoon said will fit the mood of the dancers.

"These kids, they come out there to dance," he said. "They come through that door and they hit the dance floor. There's no standing around, watching and waiting until the last hour of the night. You can feel the electricity in the air. It's just unbelievable."

The Cahoons, who have been married for 15 years, are moving from rural Casselton. Julie Cahoon owns Julie's Radio Ranch in Fargo, where she repairs car stereo systems. Delon Cahoon supervises a steel crew for a construction company during the day and at night watches over his hobby farm of 15 cows and three horses — which will be housed in a separate, smaller barn.

Their second and last dance before the usual summer break is April 24. The official grand opening is set for Aug. 28, when they plan to host a lawn party with a pig roast. They also intend to make a few tweaks to cater to older dancers, many of whom came to the barn when they were younger.

Julie Cahoon says her parents ran a tavern in her hometown of Walcott, so she feels like running the dances will be second nature.

"If it feels good, it is right," she said. "It feels good."

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