NORDEN, Neb. — The girl with the blue hair is twirling in the middle of the dance floor, her blue hair flying in a sea of black cowboy hats, her body shaking with laughter every time she loses her country dancing partner’s hand and her feet go skidding across the slick old oak.
Her name is Adrianna Trail. She drove five hours from Papillion to be here tonight. She drove five hours because earlier this summer she came here for the first time with her dance partner, Quinton Shaw, and she couldn’t believe this place was real.
She came all the way across the state of Nebraska, and will drive home tomorrow, because the Norden Barn Dance is the sort of thing that hooks you, makes anyone who twirls on this dance floor want to do it again, and a third time, and a 30th.
“Everybody has problems!” Adrianna yells to be heard over the band as she sits at a picnic table with Shaw and catches her breath between songs. “But if you do have problems, you don’t think about them when you are dancing. You don’t think about them here!”
There are not a lot of problems visible at the Norden Barn Dance tonight. Sure, it’s hotter than a three-dollar pistol outside. And, yes, the drought is on and the price of corn is in the tank and the band keeps stopping to fiddle with the recording equipment.
But the beer is ice cold and $2. The dance floor is getting crowded with rosy-cheeked ranch hands and two-steppin’ grannies and city slickers who earlier today were tubing the Niobrara. For the 117th year in a row — the 87th year inside this very barn — Keya Paha County is hosting a barn dance. It does, indeed, feel like a cure for whatever ails you.
“Where else have you seen a thing like this?” longtime resident Ronnie Worth asks as he stares at me, eyes bulging.
I shake my head. “I haven’t.”
“That’s right!” he…