By Taylor K. Long
It’s a Friday night in Windsor, VT and Diana Ross’ voice fills the air. While Windsor residents have long been used to loud music permeating throughout town on the weekends thanks to the Windsor Station’s fantastic live music calendar, this time it’s not the Station vibrating the air down by the tracks. It’s the blue and yellow building behind it, bright with lights and filled with people dancing – this is the Windsor Farmer’s Exchange, and this is Wotown, a monthly dance party set to classic Motown.
Wotown was envisioned by Windsor resident Chris Goulet. Goulet is part of a collective of locals, along with Bob Haight, owner of the Exchange, who run the space and share a passion for invigorating Windsor’s downtown.
Goulet moved back into Windsor recently after a few years outside of town, and saw Wotown as a way to generate a new spark in the community. “I tried to think of something that I could actually pull off that was relatively simple, but would cast a really wide net and appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds, something that everybody loved,” Goulet shares. “What I arrived at was Motown music.”
Much in the image of Goulet’s vision, Wotown has flourished – as the night begins, you’ll find families with children and folks who likely grew up on Motown and its ilk, and as the early crowd starts to dip and peel off, the 20- and 30-somethings start to weave in and bolster the crowd.
And it’s not just Windsor that needed another opportunity to cut loose, Wotown fills a niche that’s often lacking in the Upper Valley’s nightlife – save a few venues that host one-off events, there’s not much in the way of dance parties, at least in the free-form sense.
Though the crowd certainly isn’t the sort that will judge you for your moves – whether they trend towards the Lawnmower and the Robot, flossing or the Douggie, or swing – should you be dancefloor timid, Wotown welcomes you, too. Step onto the porch and you’ll find folks mingling and chatting outside. The lowkey vibe seems to say, Wotown is “your thing, do what you wanna do” – surely the Isley Brothers would approve.
The Exchange’s proximity to the Windsor Station doesn’t compete with the events there, instead they bolster each other. Folks can grab a drink or bite to eat at the Station before they come boogie down – one night, after the party had wound down (things wrap up around 10), Goulet encouraged Wotown-goers to mosey over to the Station for local act Derek and the Demons, who’d just gotten started, and sure enough, they did. Building and sustaining that energy and excitement is a fine example of culture begetting culture; venues and events needn’t be rivals, even if they’re right next door. They can be partners, feeding each other.
It’s that local community that Goulet is quick to praise and point to when he shares what makes Wotown so rewarding and successful. “When we say community, we think of it as singular, but there’s a whole bunch of people willing to do cool stuff around us all of the time. We just also happen to live in the woods so it feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere,” he says, “but we’re really not, we’re really quite close.”
Mike Welker, a regular Wotown-goer, agrees that that’s what makes Wotown so special. “More than anything, Wotown represents a feeling that everyone can get behind; embracing the start of the weekend with friends and neighbors in the most welcoming of places. It’s an event where I look forward to meeting people, spending time with old friends and new, and among other things, being carefree,” he says. “Wotown is something that I can (and do) brag about as being unique to Windsor and its great community.”
A passion for collaboration and connecting people comes through in everything Goulet says, not just when he talks about Wotown, but when he talks about other events at the Farmer’s Exchange and the possibilities beyond. “It’s really important for a community that’s growing and improving and becoming a cooler place to live to reach out and enable different ideas and different forms of expression and events,” he says. “I hope that as we go into the winter and we get to go through that cycle again of reflecting on what we want to accomplish for the year, I really hope that this inspires some conversations.”
The next Wotown (and last one of the year!) is on October 4th, from 7-10pm at the Windsor Farmer’s Exchange, Depot Ave., Windsor, VT. Admittance is by donation, and beverages are BYOB.
Taylor K. Long is a writer, editor, and photographer based in Windsor, VT. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Press, New York Magazine, Bright Wall/Dark Room and more.