The tour for the International Folk Dance Ensemble began as the group traveled to O’Fallon, Illinois, near St. Louis on June 3. They were warmly welcomed by the parents of Amber Shepherd, a dancer in the ensemble. The group arrived just in time for a major storm to hit the area. The airport closed down just a few hours after their arrival. As the group members met their host families at the O’Fallon stake center, the weather turned dark and eerie, and soon the tornado sirens were going off.
The dancers hurried quickly into cars to get home to safety with the host families. The group was safe by the time the terrible storm came through. Although a few F2 tornadoes did touch down in surrounding areas with some damage and the group did experience some heavy rain and hail, no tornadoes touched down in their immediate area.
The next day, after the storm had cleared, the group was able to see the famous Gateway Arch of St. Louis. The group had a great time going up in the arch, watching a documentary film of the creation of the arch, and walking through the museum.
The show that night was at the Belleville East High School Performing Arts Center, and was sponsored by the O’Fallon Stake. There were 800 audience members in a 730 seat auditorium—all brimming with excitement for the show. The audience’s response to the show was absolutely tremendous. They clapped and cheered through every piece. In the end, there were three standing ovations before the final bows.
One audience member happily noted that this show was only as much money as a movie ticket—and that it was worth five times that. Another commented that this performance was better than shows they had attended in the famous Fox Theater in St. Louis. And yet another audience member commented that the BYU dancers were better than the Rockettes.
On Sunday, the group attended the O’Fallon young single adult branch. The folk dancers helped to fulfill the branch presidency’s hope that one day the chapel would be full. After the church meetings, the branch fed the group a wonderful dinner to break the fast. The folk dancers and the branch members ate together and formed new friendships.
The fireside that evening, for the O’Fallon Stake, was attended by about 300 members and non-members. The local missionaries joined the group for the closing song. It was a positive and spiritually uplifting production. The group’s experience here in O’Fallon and St. Louis has exceeded their expectations by far.