Barndance survival guide: Flannels, festivities and Farm Lake have arrived

Summer has finally reached its end as we welcome in the new fall season, synonymous with crackling leaves underfoot, brisk sweater-weather and Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes.

This is the most important time of the year, and no, it’s not because of midterms or football games. It’s something that is bigger than all of us, even bigger than the anticipation of Starbucks’ holiday-themed cups: barndance.

Yes, I am talking about the cowboy boot holiday that captures the hearts of all University students this time of year with promises of flannel and hay that never seem to disappoint.

For those uneducated in the art of barndance, it is a Midwestern farm town phenomenon that is the highlight of the fall season.

Though I do not know the origin of barndance, I imagine some disgruntled group of teenagers once saw a barn set back deep within a corn field and thought it would be the ideal secluded place to drink copious amounts of alcohol. Then, maybe one of them carried this tradition over to the University and once the Greek system got a hold of this idea they made a T-shirt, bought some flannel and called it a date event.

And just like that, barndance was born.

Today, barndance is the highlight of many social groups’ calendars and continues to grow in popularity due to the obvious southern theme and bundles of hay. The way it works is that a social group will rent out a barn in the Champaign-Urbana area and will host a party there as a date event.

Even though the majority of barndances are Greek events, it is not an exclusively Greek enterprise, and many non-Greek organizations have taken up the fall trend as a social event. Many upperclassmen create a competition of the number of barndances that take place during the fall season by seeing how many they can be invited to.

Being asked to a barndance as a date is a coveted position and may be nerve-wracking if you have never experienced it firsthand. So, if you anticipate attending your own barndance or getting asked to one, I suggest you follow these informal rules.

First and foremost, while cowboy boots are not required, they are highly encouraged to attain the correct cowboy state of mind. When it comes to your wardrobe, the more layers, the better. Trust me, the woods get cold at night.

Some of you may even choose to have a few drinks beforehand to ease the awkward tension between you and your date, because let’s be honest, a little liquid courage never hurt anyone.

Now, once it’s time to board the big yellow bus that will magically transport you to the barn, be prepared to have your personal space invaded. There are never enough seats and you will have strangers sit on your lap    — that’s just how it goes.

Though it may be tempting, do not throw the hay. Even though it makes for the perfect picture moment when you and your friends throw hay into the air while giggling, it’s a fire hazard, and I’m fairly certain no one wants to be the guy who burns down the barn.

Last, but certainly not least, if you do nothing else while at barndace at Farm Lake, find Loretta. For those who have only heard of this lady as a mythical grandmother who floats around the barn with snacks for the attendees, I can provide testament to her existence.

She is also known as the elusive Chex Mix Lady who holds a place deep in our hearts due to her tireless efforts to keep barndance attendees nourished. She rides around on a golf cart bundled in a grey sweatshirt and passes out Chex Mix from a large wicker basket to hungry participants. She is the best thing about barndance.

‘Tis the season for barndance, and following these guidelines is sure to provide the best experience possible. Make the bored teenage founders of barndance proud — strap on your cowboy boots, button up your flannel and hold on tight because barn dance is a wild ride.

Kate is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]