by Arlene Shovald

In Germany, witches gather on Mt. Brocken on Walpurgis Night (April 30) to dance. In Salida, they gather on Halloween night in Alpine Park and everyone is invited to watch.

“We started the witch dance in 2016 and it was so much fun we plan to make it an annual event,” said Cheri Schleicher, organizer. “I don’t think we have any real pagans or Wiccans in our group like they do in Germany, but we patterned our dances after the German witch dances that we found on the Internet.”

The group, which calls itself Fly By Night, includes 14 females with a few pre-teens, mothers, grandmothers and even one 5-year-old. Rehearsals start in September and continue once a week until October when they amp things up and practice twice a week and all weekend before Halloween.

“We do three dances,” Schleicher said. “First is the broom dance, next is a circle dance, and third is a ‘stepping’ dance that involves kind of a box step. Of course, admission is free and someone will be there to pass out candy to the kids.”

The only complaint last year was that it was too dark in the park, so this year there will be more lighting. Music comes from recordings of the traditional German dances.

Alpine Park is located in the 400 block of F Street, which has come to be known as Halloween Street in Salida, so trick-or-treaters and their families can stop by at different times throughout the evening to take a break and enjoy the dancing. Dances start at 6 p.m.

“We’ll do the three sets, then take a little break and do it over again until it gets too dark or until nobody shows up,” Schleicher said with a smile. “Last year we got a lot of great comments. People thought it was so cool and asked if we’d be doing it again, and of course we didn’t need to be persuaded. If it snows, we’ll still dance until the people stop coming and then we’ll fly away home!”

The witches plan to have another dance next year and anyone interested in participating can contact Schleicher at 719-539-2487 in late August to get in on the rehearsals. In the meantime, come on down to Alpine Park on Halloween night and join in the fun as the Fly By Night witches do their thing for 2017.