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Friends & Neighbors - DL Cloggers' fame grows

"We're not famous or perfect," said Ruby Kiihn, founder of the DL Cloggers, in a feature interview for Country Woman magazine. "We're simply rural women who have a blast dancing together for the enjoyment of others."

But with the publication of the international magazine's February/March 2008 issue, which hits news stands this week, these 12 rural women will experience a measure of fame that extends far beyond the reaches of their northeast Minnesota hometown.

Kiihn has been a Country Woman subscriber for many years, and one day last summer she noticed an advertisement on the inside cover that asked subscribers if they had a story they felt would be of interest to the magazine's readers.

"It said, 'If you have a story you feel our subscribers would find interesting, drop us a line,'" Kiihn said. "So I did just that. I told them a little about our group, sent it in, and then forgot about it."

A few months later, Kiihn came home one day to find a message on her answering machine -- from the editor-in-chief of Country Woman, Sharon Selz.

Over the next few weeks in September, Selz and Kiihn would have many telephone conversations, and Kiihn would gather together pictures of the group's performances.

Finally, she received word that the story would appear in the February/March issue.

"That was really exciting," Kiihn said.

The DL Cloggers are a relatively new group on the local entertainment scene, having been formed just three years ago.

"It started out on a fluke," Kiihn said. "My sister (Bev Berg, also a founding member of the group) went to a craft show in Bismarck, N.D., where these ladies were doing a dance we'd never seen before, called clogging.

"We thought that would be fun, so we got a group together, found a teacher from Fargo and started learning how to clog," Kiihn continued.

The group still practices every Tuesday -- "and sometimes twice a week," Berg added, when they have a performance coming up.

Besides being featured in Country Woman, one of the group's most exciting opportunities came in February 2007, when they opened for a performance by the Church Basement Ladies at the Fargo Theatre.

"There were 842 people there," Kiihn noted.

Last September, the group performed at a Polka Fest in New Prague, Minn., that was attended by over 600 people.

And every summer, the cloggers perform at the Northwest Water Carnival Parade, dancing on a moving flat bed trailer attached to a semi driven by Kiihn's husband, Lloyd.

"We have to have a lot of faith in him -- but he really is a very good driver," Kiihn said with a smile.

"It really is a high," she said of the Water Carnival performance. "People hoot and holler and whistle and wave -- we just love it."

But the majority of the group's performances are done before a much smaller audience, in area nursing homes, churches, veterans' hospitals, county fairs and the like.

"We laugh as much as we dance," Kiihn said.

"Because we're having so much fun, it makes the people watching us enjoy it more," Berg added.

The music that the group uses for its dance numbers is often so familiar to their audiences that they start singing along, Kiihn said.

And after their performances, the dancers will hang around and visit with the audience members -- sometimes they even bring along a cake to serve as a treat.

"They like to hug you and shake hands," Berg said.

"We get a lot of hugs, and give a lot of hugs," Kiihn added.

As she said in the Country Woman article, "Some of our best experiences happen after we finish dancing... Our

motto is: When you give of yourself to others, your own joy is overwhelming. Usually,

the only thing louder than our shoes hitting the floor is our laughter."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454