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(Enlarge) Ben Martin takes a spin on the mechanical bull, a machine designed to replicate the riding of a bucking animal, at Meade's Gone Country held Friday evening at The Conference Center. The four-hour event also featured line dance lessons and dart-throwing contests. (Photo by Spc. Joseph Joynt)


More than 140 service members and civilians, including members of the Defense Information School community, attended the first Meade's Gone Country celebrated Friday at The Conference Center.

The purpose of the four-hour event, which was sponsored by the Fort Meade Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, was to provide an alternative to the annual Oktoberfest of previous years.

The hope was that more junior service members would attend Meade's Gone Country, said Wendy Gibbs, the community recreation officer for DFMWR.

"We have done Oktoberfest for years, but it's been declining," she said. "We're constantly looking for ways to meet the needs of service members."

Initial plans included a country music band, so the theme was pushed in that direction, said Stacy Echard, special events coordinator for DFMWR.

Although the band was unavailable, the event was still a great plan, said Echard.

Participants rode a mechanical bull, threw darts, won prizes, sampled the whiskey bar and learned to line dance,

"When the instructor arrived, the dance floor was packed," Gibbs said. "Everyone wanted to learn how to do the dance."

The tasty and affordable food also was popular among junior service members, said Gibbs.

Another draw was the mechanical bull, a machine designed to replicate the riding of a bucking animal.

"It's a little more difficult than it looks," said Sarah Leslie after she rode the mechanical bull for the first time. "That first whip around was too strong. ... I thought I was gonna die."

Senior Master Sgt. Gary Rihn, a student at the Public Affairs Qualification Course at DINFOS, also enjoyed the event.

"I like it; I'm country," Rihn said. "I live out in the country, my wife and I have a farm. This brings me back to that."

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