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Labun Jordan: Farmer's Zumba

I discovered the tourism potential of exercise class this summer, while visiting my sister in New Hampshire. Now, I’m the sort of tourist who works all day at a desk and is desperate to be active while on vacation. My sister lives near both the beach, and walking and hiking trails, so a visit seemed perfect. . . until the cold rain set in. I watched the gray sky glumly from her living room, until she suggested Zumba. It would re-energize us, she said. And, because she worked at the gym Thursday nights, it was free.

Zumba is an exercise class inspired by Latin American dancing. It has a very peppy sound track. I’d never tried it before, and based on previous experience with coordinated movement, I doubted that I’d discover untapped reservoirs of Zumba talent. Still, it was a way to be active. Plus, it was festive. There was even someone handing out glow stick bracelets at the door, a gift I declined because I didn’t want anything to throw off my balance.

My sister put us in the middle of the front row to make it as easy as possible to follow the instructor. The instructor, it turned out, was wearing an outfit that looked a lot like mine. Which meant that I looked like someone who knew what she was doing. Until the warm up. The first triple step with a hop at the end and I was lost.

Lost, but enthusiastic.

That’s the great thing about being a tourist – the determination to have fun. I would have fun Zumba-ing. I jumped up and down and made big, calorie burning movements and danced around during the breaks so as not to lose my groove. I would not rest until I worked up to my impersonation of Kevin Bacon in a Footloose finale.

When the class ended the man next to me said “Wow, you must have gotten a real workout.”

“Thank you!” I said. “I’m visiting from Vermont!”

Zumba class offered something that the beaches and trails did not – it’s fun even in lousy weather. Our region needs more of this kind of entertainment, ways to stay active on vacation in spite of unpredictable skies.

We’ve got a great start with things like our indoor water park, but you can’t put one of those in every town. Dancing around like a fool requires only an empty room and a boombox - something any village can provide.

And it’s a perfect way to capitalize on Vermont’s status as the healthiest state - even our exercise classes are a good time! And we’ll have earned all those fancy cheese plates the food tourism folks are promoting!

If visitors prefer a more New England-y experience, we could modify the Latin American routine to something more akin to aerobic square dancing - add a shimmy to the Do-Si-Do, high kicks in the promenade, and wrap it all up in a hoedown.

And voila, Farmer’s Zumba - New England’s next most popular entertainment.

Helen Labun has worked in Vermont nonprofits addressing issues in rural economic development. Today, she is Executive Director of the Vermont Fresh Network, connecting chefs to Vermont farmers in support of the local food economy.
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