Line dancing takes off at Washougal food carts

Ashwood Taps and Trucks offers all-ages line dancing classes

Kat Nichols (left) leads a line-dancing class at Ashwood Taps and Trucks in Washougal, on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Megan Davis, the co-owner of Ashwood Taps and Trucks, has always envisioned hosting line dancing at her Washougal-based taphouse/food cart pod.

“I actually wanted to do line dancing before we even picked out the name Ashwood,” said Davis, who opened the business with her husband, Tyler, in July 2022. “As soon as we started talking about this concept, I told Tyler, ‘I want to do line dancing there. Washougal is kind of a country town, so I think it would resonate, and people would have fun with it.'”

Davis’ dreams are now becoming a reality. With the help of Ashwood Taps and Trucks and instructor Kat Nichols, line dancing is quickly becoming one of Washougal’s most popular entertainment options.

“I know that (people in the) area have been clamoring for something to do, especially with the country-western dancing aspect,” Nichols said. “There’s a bunch of people out in the Camas-Washougal area that are just dying for more and more line dancing.”

Between 30 and 90 people have participated in Nichols’ twice-monthly sessions at Ashwood since October 2022, Davis said.

“We didn’t know it was going to take off in the way that it has,” she added. “I think 30 was on par with what I thought, and I probably hoped for around 50 to 60. But 90 really kind of blew me away. My husband and I were working behind the bar that night, and I was like, ‘Wow, we could almost have three staff working this event’ because we were so busy. Word has spread, clearly.”

Davis became interested in line dancing after visiting Bushwackers Saloon, a Portland-based country-western bar.

“I was just so amazed at the demographic of people,” Davis said. “It was a much younger demographic than I ever would have imagined, and it was so fun. I always had personal dreams of getting good at line dancing, maybe one day being one of those people on the floor with their spouse or partner (doing) the couple stuff. I’m still working on Tyler for that — it hasn’t happened yet. But I just personally thought it was so fun, and I was so impressed with the crowd that it drew, and I was like, ‘This could totally work at Ashwood.'”

She reached out to Nichols, Bushwackers’ dance program coordinator, on Instagram and asked if she would be willing to bring her classes to Ashwood.

Davis and Nichols planned the first session with little notice or fanfare.

“We were like, ‘Let’s just give it a shot. We’ll just try it out this time. If it’s a total flop, then it’ll be a learning experience for us,'” Davis said. “But there ended up being (around) 35 people at the very first one, and it just grew from there.”

In addition to her work at Bushwackers, Nichols, a kindergarten teacher in the Gresham-Barlow School District in Oregon, serves as the director of dance at the Oregon Jamboree, an annual Oregon-based country music festival; founder and captain of the Pacific Northwest Stompeders dance team; and the resident line dance instructor at the Sweetheart Jamboree, an annual country, swing and line-dance workshop event.

She also leads line-dancing classes at several spots in Northwest Oregon, including The Ponderosa Lounge & Grill in Portland; Paola’s Pizza Barn in Sandy, Oregon; and Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, Oregon.

“She’s got great stage presence, and she delivers the training with such confidence,” Davis said about Nichols. “She’s funny. She’s very clear in her direction. Her delivery is so great. And she really teaches the steps. It’s very obvious that teaching dance is not her only (teaching experience). She just has a knack for teaching. She’s been trained in it. And she’s also a great line dancer. You combine the two and you’ve got a great line dancing teacher.'”

Ashwood “offers a really nice, friendly environment perfect for building a community dance program,” according to Nichols.

“They also allow their space to be all-ages-friendly, which is amazing, because I’ve noticed a lot of these country-western dance places are 21-and-up,” Nichols added. “(Children and teenagers) are able to come out and have fun and get started in country-western dancing and see if it’s something that they enjoy and kind of get them ready for the day that they might actually be able to go out to a country-western bar and have fun. The space is capable of functioning as an all-ages venue, so people bring their kids, and it’s super cute to watch a 4 year old trying to do the dance.”

Nichols structures her sessions so that everyone, regardless of dancing experience, can get something out of them. For the first hour, she leads the participants through a series of basic steps, which eventually combine into a “beginner-friendly” dance. In the second hour, she opens the floor to intermediate-level dancers, who can request songs to dance to during a “guided open portion.”

“Ashwood offers a really nice environment for people to come and feel like they have the space to be silly and to learn something new,” Nichols said. “I know that a lot of people come into dance lessons sometimes and they feel a little bit overwhelmed or intimidated by the crowd that’s around them, and that’s just not the environment that Ashwood has cultured. They just have a ton of fun and they get out there and they really do their best and enjoy what they’re doing, and they don’t care too much about the fact that it’s a little silly and they’re running around like a chicken with their head cut off. They thoroughly enjoy it.”

Nichols, who was recently hired by the Camas Parks and Recreation Department to teach classes at Lacamas Lake Lodge, hopes to eventually grow her business and spread her love of line dancing throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“The more students that we can encourage, and the more individuals that we get interested in this form of dancing, the better,” Nichols said.

Nichols usually holds two classes a month, typically from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays, at Ashwood Taps and Trucks, 1535 “E” St., Washougal. For more information about the classes and an updated schedule, visit linedanci