Dedicated dancers to keep performing

Group nearly struck in the Waukesha Christmas parade will participate in Belgium event on Sunday
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

Belgium’s European Christmas Night Parade on Sunday will include a special entry this year.

The Wisconsin Diamond Dancers will perform in their second parade since nearly being struck by Darrell Brooks Jr. in the Waukesha parade Nov. 21.

The dancers’ co-founder Margie Dougherty of Bayside said her group, women older than 50 who love to dance, formed in February as a spinoff of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies and was about a block behind them when the alleged murderous rampage took place on Nov. 21.

Dougherty and a few of the Diamond Dancers knew three of the Dancing Grannies who were killed and others who were injured.

“It’s tough. It’s very tough,” she said.

Brooks’ SUV sped down the parking lane before the road narrowed from four lanes to two, Dougherty said.

“He went right past us very fast,” she said. “We were very lucky. You just go through all the ‘what ifs.’”

One of the Diamond Dancers’ sisters who was carrying the banner had family members watching the parade in the area where Brooks struck people.

“They saw the whole thing,” Dougherty said.

“The Dancing Grannies were right in front of them when they got hit. They said it was pretty awful, what they saw.”

Another of the Diamond Dancers had two granddaughters in the Waukesha Xtreme Dance Team who were injured. One is still in the hospital among the seriously injured, Dougherty said.

“What the girls are going through — it’s horrible, just horrible,” she said.

On that fateful Sunday, the Diamond Dancers were still finalizing their holiday parade schedule and planned to inform Belgium the next day whether they would participate in this Sunday’s parade.

Kaity Olsen, one of the Belgium parade’s organizers, invited the group via email to come to Belgium for a second time. The Diamond Dancers were part of the Luxembourg Fest parade.

“We love the fact that Kaity contacted us. It makes us feel good that we did a good job in August and we wanted to be invited back,” Dougherty said.

But they weren’t sure about performing so soon after nearly being killed.

“It was pretty chaotic after Sunday. In some ways it’s still chaotic emotionally,” Dougherty said.

“Some of us were quick to say let’s perform. Others took a little longer.”

In the end, the Diamond Dancers came to a unanimous decision.

“We all feel the same way. We can help people through this,” Dougherty said.

The group was going to be in the Whitefish Bay parade on Nov. 26 but that was canceled in the aftermath of the Waukesha tragedy.

They are scheduled to dance in the West Allis parade on Saturday, then Belgium on Sunday.

But they approach parades differently now.

Dougherty said she used to think that the worst thing that could happen was someone stepping in a pothole and getting injured or fainting from the heat during summer.

They hadn’t carried IDs — their purses were in a car that follows them during the parade — but Dougherty heard that complicated matters when authorities were trying to figure out who was injured.

“It makes us think about things we didn’t think about before,” she said.

But the Diamond Dancers also keep their mission in mind:

“We are a diverse group of women who love to dance. We spread happiness and joy through our dance performances, bringing smiles to the faces of audience members and inspiring other seniors to adopt a more active lifestyle. Performing with the spunk and energy of our youth, we represent the fulfillment of life at any age.”

The group dances to classic rock tunes such as “Twist and Shout” in honor of the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from the movie “Trolls,” and “Uptown Funk,” and “Dancing Queen.”

“It’s stuff that we hope people will recognize so that they can feel good about it,” Dougherty said.

For Christmas parades, songs include “Feliz Navidad,” “Sleigh Ride” by the Ronettes and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Most of the group’s 16 members who hail from across the greater Milwaukee area don’t know each other well. Twice weekly practices at the West Suburban YMCA in Wauwatosa and performances, including eight parades during summer, were the only time they got together.

That has changed, too, after their unimaginable shared experience.

“You hate to say it. It’s bringing us closer together,” Dougherty said.

They hope their next shared experiences are positive ones.

The self-sustaining group puts money it receives for parades toward costumes and musical equipment. Dougherty said the dancers plan to donate some of the money from the Belgium parade to the United for Waukesha Community Fund that supports victims of the parade.

Sunday’s schedule of events

Sunday’s parade starts at 4:30 p.m. at Community Park and travels east on Main Street, ending at Dean Road.

Festivities continue at Village Square. Food, drinks and free hot chocolate will be offered.

Children’s activities and visits with St. Nick will be held in the Luxembourg American Cultural Center.

The Chamber’s chili cook-off will be held at Village Hall from 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. They may be purchased through the Chamber’s website at belgiumareachamber.org.

Cedar Grove to host market on Thursday

Cedar Grove will again hold its Christmas Village Market from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2.

The event includes an open house of local businesses. People who visit at least 12 businesses will be able to win one of the grand prizes.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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