If you follow the trail of cowboy hats and boots, Wrangler jeans and fringed shirts in Glen Burnie any Tuesday or Wednesday night, chances are, you'll wind up at La Fontaine Bleu.
The banquet hall off Ritchie Highway has become a country line-dancing mecca for hundreds of enthusiasts from the Baltimore area. From young children to retirees, dancers flock to the hall for a buffet dinner and a night of dancing.
"This is great," said Andrea Lorah of Glen Burnie, who has been going every week for more than three years. "I have my husband here, my two kids, and you don't have the kids hanging out on the corner or in the park at night. And, it's like an aerobic workout."
The dances cost $11 for adults, $5 for children ages 4 to 12 and are free for children younger than age 4. The dancing lasts from 5: 30 p.m. to 11 p.m. They started in March 1994, when La Fontaine Bleu's managers began looking for ways to get bigger crowds into their banquet hall in the middle of the week. Paul Maltese, the hall's vice president, proposed trying line-dancing, setting up an adult scene with a bar and limited food.
"But we learned that people wanted more of a family atmosphere, so after the first month, we added dinner and dance lessons," Maltese said.
As soon as the beer and vodka were replaced with soda at the bar and families were encouraged to come, the dances started taking off, Maltese said. Soon, more than 500 people were showing up on Tuesday nights, so managers added Wednesday night dancing, too.
Ann Rodgers, 52, has been line-dancing twice a week for two years. She meets a group of at least 10 friends every week and says she prefers the scene at La Fontaine Bleu to bars and line-dancing clubs.
'You feel safe'
"You feel safe coming here," said Rodgers of Glen Burnie. "It's not rowdy. There are no drunks here."
The atmosphere is so safe that Mary Catterton, 59, has begun taking her granddaughter, Megan Catterton. The 4-year-old didn't seem to mind tagging along with her grandmother's friends. She had her stuffed dalmatians and Little Mermaid doll to keep her occupied, and when she heard a song she liked, she'd jump up, run to the dance floor in her tiny red boots and get right into it.
"This used to be my night out with the girls, but now it's my night out with my granddaughter," said Catterton of Glen Burnie. "But I don't mind at all. She's no bother, and it's teaching her good manners to be meeting all these different people."
Hangout for teens
It has also become a social gathering for teen-agers. Sarah Keens, 14, of Brooklyn Park goes Tuesday and Wednesday nights to meet friends who are scattered all over Baltimore city and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties most of the time. Keens and her friends usually come with their families and do homework together between dances.
"We get home late, so we have to make sure we finish it here," Keens said.
Keens said most of her friends learned how to line-dance at La Fontaine Bleu and liked it so much that they started a group, The Bleu Rodeo, that has won awards in regional dance competitions. Despite the group's success, members said they get teased in school for their interest in line-dancing.
"If you wear your country clothes to school, they'll say you live in a trailer somewhere in the hills," said 17-year-old Jamie Whisman of Pasadena. "It's just not the style in school. What's in is black lipstick, baggy clothing, chains and stuff."
"But I don't care," Keens said. "It's very different, and I like being different."
Pub Date: 5/15/97