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There was a time when kicking up your heels at a country dance was a regular social event on the Canadian prairies. At the turn of the last century, Alberta’s ranchers and homesteaders often gathered together on weekends in a neighbor’s barn for a potluck dinner, live music, socializing and dancing.
For more than 25 years, the Kunkel family of Hillspring, Alberta, has opened the doors of their southern Alberta barn to visitors in a unique family venue called The Great Canadian Barn Dance. Lloyd Kunkel, a talented country and western musician, initially conceived of the idea of putting on barn dances as a retirement venture. He had always enjoyed performing in his band but no longer enjoyed the traveling involved. When he happened across the right barn in the mid-1980s, he immediately identified its potential as a barn dance venue. The fact that the barn was sitting in the middle of nowhere did concern him, but it did not deter him.
Hillspring is a small village in southern Alberta with a population of about 200 residents. Although it is tiny, the community is less than an hour’s drive from two UNESCO World Heritage sites — Waterton Lakes National Park and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the views from the area are stunning.
Regular Saturday evening dinner and barn dances feature an Alberta beef dinner, live music, complimentary dance lessons and horse-drawn hay rides. It’s a family-friendly, alcohol-free event that is suitable for all ages and guests who want to stay overnight can do so in the 90-site campground or in cabins located around a lake adjacent to the barn dance venue.