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Contra Dance & Music Camp

September 7 - 9

Bear Hug Mountain Festival 2018

Flathead Lake, Rollins, Montana

Big sky, blue water and scenic mountains will provide the backdrop for great music and dancing at the 2018 Bear Hug Music and Dance Camp located on the shores of Montana’s Flathead Lake. An exciting weekend is in store for all with two distinguished callers and three great bands. Caller Andrea Nettleton will be flying in from the East Coast, while Susan Michaels swings over from the West Coast. The nationally-acclaimed Stringrays will be returning along with two locally grown bands: Barley & Sage and Hypergolic. The Saturday night concert should be as spectacular as the constellations in the late-summer sky.


Hallelujah! The Stringrays are returning to Bear Hug. Rodney Miller, one of the original innovators of postmodern contra dance music, will be bringing his magical fiddle to sweeten our ears and motivate our feet—much like he has since the 1970s. On guitar, Max Newman will provide scintillating riffs to dazzle our imagination and drive our bodies into wild contortions.  Stuart Kenney, longtime player with Wild Asparagus and host of the legendary Guiding Star Grange dances in Greenfield, Mass., will keep everyone on the beat with his savvy bass. What more need be said?

If caller Susan Michaels of Seattle ever forms a company it should be called FUN INCORPORATED.  She has been distributing joy and laughter on and off dance floors across the country for more than 30 years.  Susan loves all kinds of choreography, but specializes in dances with drive and flow that maintain the feel of a community dance while taking off into new dimensions. Wherever she goes, she brings her special brand of wry quirky humor, to make both newcomers and crusty veterans blossom through dance.

Susan Michaels

Caller and choreographer Andrea Nettleton brings her infectious enthusiasm and creative original dances to Bear Hug for the first time. A resident of Atlanta for many years, Andrea has been delighting dancers in the Southeast and Mid Atlantic for nearly a decade.  Her extensive touring has made dance communities throughout the nation familiar with her fun attitude, melodious voice, clear teaching skills and a selection of great dances. Callers far and wide have incorporated Andrea's unique, playful and flowing choreography into their repertoire.

Andrea Nettleton

Two for the price of one...

Bear Hug is proud to introduce two exciting bands based in northern Idaho and western Montana. Classically trained and folk-inspired, Barley & Sage create a full spectrum of energetic dance music through a lively mix of jigs and reels ranging from renaissance to contemporary.


The other half of this bargain is Hypergolic, a rocket-fueled duo that will give lift to your dancing shoes with full-throttled fiddling propelled by driving guitar and foot percussion. And don't be surprised if musicians from both bands combine to play at various times during the weekend.


Betsy Richards of Barley and Sage has been thrilling dancers throughout the Northwest with her virtuoso folk fiddling for years. Betsy picked up her first fiddle when she was seven, and has never stopped expanding her skills. After six years of classical training she discovered bluegrass and Celtic music—and then fell in love with all things contra. “I love the variety of styles that contra integrates,” she says. “It's a grand and ongoing adventure to develop my own fiddle style that is not only fun to listen to but also makes you want to get up and DANCE!!”


Bear Hug has recruited up-and-coming fiddler Cade Fiddaman to back up Barley & Sage. Cade started playing a mini-fiddle as a toddler and became hooked on contra dancing and its music while an adolescent. Now 18 years old, Cade stands a lot taller, plays a much longer fiddle, and even composes his own contra dance tunes. A resident of Bozeman, Montana, Cade is one of the driving forces behind Hypergolic.


Steve Marty, who provides rhythm for both bands, also got an early start as a youth studying both classical and folk guitar. A contra dancer for 25 years, Steve knows what is required to keep feet rocking and reeling. “I love the interaction between contra dancers and musicians and am always on the lookout for a new rhythm or effect to inspire the dancers,” he says. Steve has spent the past 20 years honing his skills as a dance musician in various bands in western Montana.

the dancers,” he says. Steve has spent the past 20 years honing his skills as a dance
musician in various bands in western Montana.

Betsy Richards

Steve Marty
& Cade Fiddaman

At Camp

At Camp

ACTIVITIES: Swim, sun, or paddle canoes from a sandy beach or deep water dock. The park-like wooded grounds of the peninsula offer many sanctuaries along the lake shore for self-reflection or quiet talks with old friends. For the more competitive at heart, there's basketball and volleyball courts, outdoor ping-pong tables and horseshoe pits.

ARRIVAL: Camp opens at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.  Upon reaching camp...
   1) Check in at the Dining Hall
   2) Tour the camp to select your   preferred cabin and bunk
   3) Come back and reserve the space on our accommodations map

Dining Hall

ACCOMODATIONS: You can choose bunks in more than a dozen rustic cabins of various sizes, or set up a tent along the shore beneath the pines, Other facilities include dining hall and retreat center, restroom and shower facilities, dock, swimming area and canoes, basketball and volleyball courts, ping pong pavilion, baseball diamond, tenting and RV space. 

CABINS: Stove and refrigerators, living rooms and porches. Bath and shower houses are a short walk from the cabins.

FOOD: Potluck dinner on Friday night (provided by local dancers), 6 to 8. The camp provides three meals on Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday. The kitchen staff can accommodate those with special dietary needs.

CAMP MAPS: Cabin layouts,  number/types of rooms and beds.  Maps will be available at the registration desk.

Things to remember for the weekend

  • smooth sole dance shoes

  • dance clothes

  • pillow

  • warm sleeping bag

  • warm clothing

  • rain gear

  • musical instruments

  • tape recoder & batteries

  • toiletries

  • towel

  • earplugs

  • swim suit

  • towel

  • personal drink mug

  • optional: tent

More Info

The Friday evening dance is at 8 p.m   Full weekend schedule at registration desk or here after Sept .  Camp ends with lunch at 12:45 PM on Sunday. Emergency phone messages can be left at (406) 844-3483.  Dancing shoes should be without black rubber soles/heels -- with smooth leather soles -- to protect the dance floor from black marks.  No pets.  No alcohol or recreational drugs.  No indoor smoking.  Park only in designated areas.  



Bear Hug is held at the Flathead Lake United Methodist Camp (FLUMC) located off Highway 93 on the western shore of the lake, between Polson and Kalispell.


Coming from the south on Highway 93, the Bear Hug ''turn here'' sign stands about three-quarters of a mile north of the Rollins Store.


Coming from the north on Highway 93, look for the sign at mile marker 89, about nine miles south of Lakeside. Turn east onto Rollins Lakeshore Drive and follow the Bear Hug and Methodist camp signs, keeping to the middle fork at the Fire Hall.


Park in the lot above camp and walk to the dining hall porch to register.


Once you decide on a cabin you can drive there to unload.

Map courtesy of
The Missoulian


Registration and Cost

Cost:  $195 for each adult.

Scholarships: Bear Hug offers a limited number of Work Scholarships for those with limited resources and six Youth Scholarships available for dancers aged 25 or younger.

Contact: Julie Kahl 406-543-6508, jawkal[at sign] to find out if there are reduced scholarship slots still available at $100.

How to Register

Registration: To find out if there are still Bear Hug slots available, please contact Julie Kahl since we have now closed online registration.  Here's her contact info: Phone: (406) 543-6508. Email: jawkal[at-sign]  Note: special diet meals are no longer available.  Be sure to include your full name, address, number of participants you'd like to register, AND YOUR PHONE NUMBER and Julie will get back to you.  Thank you for your interest!
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