The 17th Rock n’ Roll Oldies Dance to benefit Ronald McDonald House will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight Oct. 12 at the Eagle’s Hall in Biddeford and tickets are now on sale. FILE PHOTO

BIDDEFORD — You can call Bruce Martin a “Rock n’ Roll revivalist,” a connoisseur of oldies music of the 50s, 60s and 70s, and a guy who brings people together twice a year to dance the night away in Biddeford all while raising money for a good cause.

His Rock n’ Roll Oldies Dance Parties at the Eagle’s Hall in Biddeford are always sold out and with his popular benefit dance rapidly approaching, Martin is advising participants to purchase tickets quickly before they are gone. The 17th Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit Dance will be held Saturday, Oct. 12 and ticket sales for the dance are limited to just 300 seats and now available.

For just $10, participants can spend an evening doing the Twist, the Watusi, the Swim, the Stroll, the Pony and more with all of the money raised by the dance donated to Ronald McDonald House in Portland. Through 16 dances so far, Martin and his Oldies Dance Committee has been able to raise $60,000 for the Ronald McDonald House, making it the single largest community fundraiser for the organization in the state of Maine.

“This is wildly popular and it’s gratifying that people like the dance, but it’s really all about raising money for the Ronald McDonald House,” Martin said. “The community deserves a big thank you for supporting this event time after time and year after year. It just amazes me how quickly these tickets go.”

Martin, a retired Maine Warden Service employee, was with his wife Wendy on a shopping trip one afternoon in 2009 when they encountered a little boy and his mother inside Walmart and then again at Shaw’s Supermarket in Biddeford.

“I came around the corner and there was this little 5-year-old fellow named Jeremy and it was clear that he was very ill and had cancer,” Martin said. “I called him Shorty and he started grinning. Later that afternoon I went into Shaw’s and as fate would have it, the boy and his mother were there too. I called him Shorty again and he smiled and waved back at me. When I left there something just came into my head and I knew what I was supposed to do. I decided to stage a rock n’ roll dance to help families of sick children.”

What was supposed to be a one-time dance party event has evolved into the twice-annual Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit dance party benefitting sick children and their families using the services of Ronald McDonald House. The Ronald McDonald House organization provides comfort for the families of pediatric patients that directly improve the health and well-being of all children, including access to quality health care and family-centered care ensuring families are fully supported and actively involved in their child’s care.

Martin says that participants come to the dances to socialize and have fun with friends, but mostly it’s all about dancing to oldies tunes that harken back to a simpler time and familiar songs they grew up listening to. He has more than 1,700 songs at his disposal as the DJ at the dances and his extensive collection includes songs from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and a few country tunes mixed in too.

“My personal favorite is The Temptations’ song ‘My Girl’ and it’s also my favorite song to dance to,” Martin said. “I also like ‘Oh Girl’ by the Chi-Lites.”

According to Martin, through the years the list of favorites among dancers in Biddeford has proven to be “Locomotion” by Little Eva, “YMCA” by the Village People, “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, “The Twist” by Chubby Checker and “This Magic Moment” by Jay and the Americans.

“If I play any one of those songs the dance floor will be packed,” Martin said. “‘Unchained Melody’ is really the one song that never fails. Even guys that don’t dance at all are out on the dance floor when that one comes on.”

The dance playlist is extensive and includes smash rock n’ roll hits by everyone from the Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley to Sister Sledge and Marvin Gaye to the Bee Gees and the Bobby Fuller Four. There also will be oldies videos shown during the event.

If the last dance on March 23 is an indication of how fast tickets will sell out, consider this. Within 14 days of being announced in January, 300 tickets were sold and 81 people were left waiting to buy tickets if someone couldn’t attend.

The Oct. 12 dance runs from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Eagle’s Hall at 57 Birch St. in Biddeford and tickets can be purchased by calling Martin at 284-4692.

— Executive Editor Ed Pierce can be reached at 282-1535 or by email at [email protected]

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