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Being an enthusiast of hot springs, and following the guide books, that I have a stack of, I wandered from highway 395 down the Middle Fork of the John Day River to Ritter Hot Springs. I had read a little bit about Ritter. When I got there I discovered that it was about a 150 year old stage stop at a hot springs. It was also a destination for people seeking cures for various maladies, soaking in the hot springs water.
After arriving at the hot springs and enjoying its ambiance, I wandered home. Over the next couple years I went to the Ritter Hot Springs several times. About my fourth time there, on a Memorial Day Weekend, when the hot springs opens up for the season, there were teenagers overseeing the place. As I visited with them, I looked upward, over the old motel unit, and asked, “What’s in the upper story of that building?” They told me it was a dance hall. “No,” said I. “Yes,” said they. So, I asked them to show me. We went to the other side of the building, where there was door that opened to a stairway, that lead up to the dance hall. But, the door was locked. So, they pointed out that there was a fire escape from the upper story that went from a window to the adjacent hillside. We climbed up that hillside to that gangway type of bridge and in through the window.
The dance hall is more than a hundred years old. It has graffiti on the walls from all the decades since it was built. There were names and dates, some carved some written, that people had left there over the decades.
Back in Portland, at one of the Monday night events, I mentioned to Robert Hauk that I had found an old dance hall in eastern Oregon and that maybe we could have a Milonga there. He asked me where it was. I said Ritter. He responded with surprise because his family went there often when he was a kid. And he said, “let’s do it.”
I got in touch with the owner and made arrangements with him to book the place for a Tango event.
The only problem with this arrangement was that the owner would not allow more than 40 people at a time to be there in the dance hall. That old dance hall is very rickety. This meant that I had to do private invitations to the event.
The first year went well. All invited responded soon and I got the group together. There were about 36 of us. I enjoyed the production of the whole thing.
The next year it went a little differently. Some folks never responded to the invitations. Some said yes that did not attend. We had a smaller crowd and I was a bit out of pocket on the event.
The next year was a little worse as far as the organization and getting people to commit. I decided then that the limited invitation thing was too much to handle and that I needed to find another place to hold the event.
I wanted everyone who would like to be able to attend.