Most weddings have a Grand March, where the wedding party makes the Tunnel of Love for the bride and groom to go through, then they all dance together and exchange partners with each other, while everyone else videotapes and takes pictures of all the couples. But in Thorp, they do the Grand March differently than anywhere else that I have seen. I heard this was a tradition that came from Poland, but I've never seen it done except at Thorp.
This Grand March takes a couple of choreographers, let's call them Stash and Friend. Stash wasn't the only guy I ever saw doing this, but his name will work for today. And I never did catch Stash's friend's name.
Start by lining up in the Tunnel of Love, first with the wedding party, then adding as many other couples as can fit in the hall. Start with the bride and groom standing right by the bandstand, then the wedding party, then everyone else, as many as possible, everyone join in and help. Get everyone involved, make the Tunnel extend all the way from the bandstand to the back end of the hall. Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, even your friends from the Twin Cities, everyone is welcome and encouraged to help. The more people the better.
Tunnel of Love? You know that one: it's where the people stand facing each other, holding their hands up and toward each other. When you line up you make a tunnel out of your bodies and hands. Usually the bride and groom go through this tunnel, and you capture them when they get to your section, and get a kiss from the bride or groom.
So, there's a Tunnel of Love extending all the way from the bandstand to the far end of the hall. The tunnel is made of maybe a hundred or more couples, the wedding party first, then the relatives, then the friends and everyone else, no problem. Start the Grand March music.
The bride and groom start through the tunnel, getting kisses left and right. Everyone else then follows them through the tunnel, so that the tunnel actually goes through itself.
When the bride and groom come out the far end at the back of the hall, Stash motions the bride to the left, the groom to the right, then the rest of the women to the left, and all the men to the right. The single-sex lines circle around the outside edge of the dance floor, circling back toward the bandstand.
Stash runs back to the front by the bandstand to motion the couples together, joining back up, and has them promenade (slowly, if the Tunnel is still eating itself) back down the floor, swaying to the Grand March music, which we have been playing all along.
Stash runs back to the back of the hall, in front of the line of couples. He splits the couples off, couple by couple, to make two lines of couples circling back around the outside of the floor, back to the front by the band stand two by two.
Get it? First there were two lines of singles circling the outside of the dance floor, now there's two lines of couples circling back to the bandstand.
About this time Stash's friend Jody steps in and takes over the back end of the dance floor, while Stash runs back to the front end and stays there. That way he doesn't have to keep running back and forth. When the two lines of couples come back together by the bandstand, Stash combines them together into fours, and the groups of four promenade down the hall from the bandstand to the back. There they are split into two new columns of fours, which circle in two lines again, but lines of fours, left and right around the floor back around to the band stand.
At the bandstand they are combined into eights. Stash and Jody are working the front and back of the hall. The eights promenade to the back, swaying to the music. Some of them are giggling; it sure looks like great fun.
Now, depending on how many people are there, Stash and Jody might send them to circle back around and make sixteens. But this time they don't. When the line of eights reaches the back of the hall they are split back into two lines of fours, sent left and right to circle back around to the bandstand. The fours reach the front, promenade to the back, then are split into couples. The couples circle left and right back to the bandstand, then promenade to the back of the hall, where they are split into two lines of singles, to circle back around to the bandstand.
When the lines of singles reach the bandstand, Stash combines them into one huge long line, a snake of people, girl/boy/girl/boy/etc, with the bride in the front. Stash leads the bride and the snake, like a giant bunny hop line, to the back of the hall, then around the dance floor to the left, as the snake circles around the outside of the dance floor and gets itself sorted out.
Then Stash leads the bride as the snake spirals in toward the center of the floor. When they reach the middle, Stash turns the bride around and the snake snakes past itself spiraling outward. The back part of it is still spiraling inward as the front part is spiraling outward. They spiral out, and circle the dance floor again to get straightened out into a big circle.
Stop the music, everyone applaud. Stay in your spot in the circle while the wedding party dances a slow dance and exchanges partners. If you were waiting for the traditional Grand March, well, there it is.
Stash and Jody smile and accept congratulations for a job well done, head off to the bar for a drink of water.
by Joe Larson, June 7, 2003
July 24, 2015 update: We ran into Stash and Jody at a church picnic recently. They are doing fine, and are still quite busy orchestrating the grand marches around Thorp. If you'd like to talk to them about it, you can call them at 715-669-5105.