A weekend at
Before a big youth group trip, it is our little tradition to have a late night pyjama dance practise and then leave on our tour bus just after midnight. Friday October 22nd was one such evening. After weeks of dedication, we were all ready for our latest performing adventure. Over fifty people--- dancers, parents and grandparents--- with our bags, pillows, blankets, movies, salt pretzels and liquor-filled chocolates all piled into the bus decorated in the casino-theme. Off we drove---destination Atlantic City, New Jersey: Trump Taj Mahal!
No, we didnít get much sleep that night. We never do. The bus ride alone is a major social event for us all. Iím not sure whoís the rowdier bunch; the boisterous boys and the laughing girls in the back, or the hilarious noisy singing dads and the laughing moms in the front! Itís rare for youth and their parents to all be having such fun in one place! Thatís the way it always is with the youth group.
In cold, cloudy Atlantic City, the bus pulled up to the door of our hotel, and out oozed the groggy, yawning travellers. A little fresh air helped us perk up enough to quickly ready ourselves for our first performance.
Donald Trumpís Taj Mahal casino was only a short walk away. Against a backdrop of the moody sky and the endless cranky sea, Trumpís magnificent gold and white turreted Indian-style high-rise sure was impressive. It is startling and a little disturbing that the Taj Mahal along with its flashy neighbours jut out of a virtual slum city. Atlantic City had its hay day in the first part of the 1900ís and the place hasnít been maintained since then. Garbage swirls around the streets and collects in the alleys between the abandoned and dilapidated houses. The inside of the Taj Mahal is exactly the opposite (except for the cruddy areas designated for the employees.) I found it ultra gaudy with its purple and fuchsia carpets, brass pillars and trimmings and many huge chandeliers. The most awesome part of the casino was the central atrium. Above the grand flight of stairs and escalators, thousands of little brassy mirrors reflect the sparkles of several gigantic crystal chandeliers, setting the golden dome ceiling ablaze with multi-coloured glitter. Hundreds upon hundreds of people milled around inside the card playing rooms and the halls full of endless rows of ringing and dinging slot machines.
The Oktoberfest celebration was held in the arena within the Taj Mahal walls. The arena was filled with vendors selling Dirndls, jewellery, and tons of German things. Hundreds of people enjoyed the German food and the music of Mississauga Express, Edith Prock, the all-girl Bayrische 7, and a few other German bands. We danced three times that afternoon and were very well received. With every set we performed, the crowdís enthusiasm and applause grew. Itís unusual to find such a large group of young people keeping up their German traditions and even more unusual that we are Danube Schwabian Germans!
As we were filing onto the dance floor, fellow Danube Schwabians in the crowd began calling out to us the names of towns where they were born. Coincidentally, several names matched those hometowns of the grandparents of some of my fellow dancers. How moving and memorable was that! We even got a standing ovation and the MC was so thrilled with us that all you could see of his face was a beaming grin! You could say the peopleís enthusiasm got out of hand: as we were ready in our proper formations and waiting for the music to begin at any moment, an elderly man shuffled across the dance floor, came to us and asked for a couple minutes to praise us tearfully. I felt bad about it, but we had to tell him that we needed to continue with our show; hundreds of people were waiting! In our off-time, a few of us gals and guys came upon a man playing accordion and we began dancing a flying polka to entertain the receptionists in the hotel check-in hall (much like an airport check-in if you add chandeliers.) They were thrilled for the private show! So many people said we were the best part of the whole event. It was overwhelming. The girls were getting choked up!
That Saturday night we walked along the boardwalk peeking in on the other casinos and checking out the mini amusement park all alight with flashing signs that was set up on the pier over the water. The adventurous ones went on a ride, "Crazy Mouse". What a time and place for a roller coaster--with the black sky above, the choppy sea below (eeeeek!)!! Annie said as they whizzed wildly along the track she could see the ocean waves crashing below her!
We had a yummy late night buffet dinner in the cafeteria, thanks to the little meal cards we were given. The boys didnít hold back when it came to soft ice-cream from a bottom-less dispenser. Mr. Trump treated us well though he had no idea.
Sunday was much like the day before except for our costumes. We have new black skirts with embroidered flowers on it with yellow aprons to match. My Tante Ingrid and many of our mothers spent the last couple weeks before our trip sewing them in a great hurry. We girls THANK YOU so much for all that work!! Weíd also like to thank Gisella Lewis for inviting us to dance and giving us this experience.
After our last performance, we were free to relax and enjoy the pool up on the 14th floor. The room was decorated and painted with an Arabian motif. We could walk out from the pool area to the patio on the casino roof and watch the sun set behind the gold and white towers all around. It felt like a scene out of the story Aladdin.
After breakfast early Monday morning I got to spend a little time at the still and sunny sea shore collecting shells and thoroughly enjoying the perfect atmosphere. A 12-hour trip home was the calm finish to an exciting weekend.
Rachel A.I. Seilern
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