West Virginia, in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, is home to centuries-old square dance traditions that have entertained residents and visitors alike. Traditional four-couple set square dances and mountain circle, also known as “big circle,” dances are called by local dance callers to live old-time music. “Round dances,” such as waltzes and two steps are often played between squares at most locations. No experience or partner is required. Whether you dance or not, the joy of square dancing to live fiddle music entertains both dancers and wall flowers alike. Beginners and children are always welcome, and as caller Mack Samples says, “These old dances are simple, you can learn them in no time.”
MARLINTON, Pocahontas County
At one time Pioneer Days in downtown Marlinton held large square dances in the street. Today the Pocahontas County Opera invites Jack Krack and friends with local callers for the Roadkill Cook-Off Square Dance, Saturday, September 27 at 8 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults, and free for students. Location: Pocahontas County Opera House – 818 Third Avenue, Marlinton WV. More information available at www.pocahontasoperahouse.org
DUNMORE, Pocahontas County
Nestled among the giant spruce trees of the Monongahela National Forest less than ten miles from the Virginia line the Dunmore Community Center hosts Saturday night square dances on the first Saturday of the month, when the weather permits. Ellen & Eugene Ratcliffe and Tom Sharp call mountain circle square dances to the music of Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters, and Mud Hole Control. Dancing gets underway at 8 p.m., and refreshments are available. Admission is $4, and free for students. The Dunmore Community Center is located at 215 Dunmore Road, off of Route 92 and 28. Dances are slated for January 5, February 2, March 2, April 6, August 17, November 2.
CASS, Pocahontas County
There is an annual Cass Reunion Square Dance on June 15th that will feature Ellen & Eugene Ratcliffe calling big circle square dances to Juanita Fireball and the Continental Drifters it starts at 7:00 p.m. Held at the Cass Community Building in the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park at 12363 Cass Road.
MONTEREY, Highland County, Virginia
Highland County, Virginia, has had a long history of square dancing. The Highland County Lions Club hosts a street dance downtown Monterey every July with a chicken barbecue dinner, bluegrass music, cakewalks, clogging and square dancing. The evening square dance will get underway at roughly 7 p.m. on July 13. Admission is free to these dances.
SPRINGFIELD, Hampshire County
The Milleson’s Campground hosts an annual square dance each summer, last year they decided to open it up to the public. It will be held on July 13 at 8 p.m. and will feature four couple squares called by Lou Maiuri to a live string band. Admission is free. Held at Milleson’s Campground – 28/5 Milleson Mill Rd, Springfield. For more information: www.millesonscampground.com
FRANKLIN, Pendleton County
Treasure Mountain Festival is a long-standing tradition in Pendleton County, and the dance features local musicians Walter Hojka, Steve Gallagher and Carmen Rexroad. Square dances take place on both Friday, September 20 and Saturday, September 21st at 8 p.m. in the parking lot in downtown Franklin. Admission is free. More information available at www.tmf.squarespace.com
THOMAS, Tucker County
Dances started up in December 2012, reviving Tucker County after decades without square dances. Many talented musicians and callers travel from around the state and play music for the Thomas square dance. All ages and beginners are welcome, at each dance you’ll find both. Dances vary between four couple set and big circle squares. They are held at the Thomas Education Center at 324 Brown Street, next to the Catholic Church. Admission is $5 for adults. Dance starts at 7 p.m. and will be held during Art Spring on September 1st.
MORGANTOWN, Monongalia County
Square dances have been held regularly at Marilla Center since the building was completed in 1941. Local fiddle player, Elmer Rich was of the first musicians playing for dances there, with Ross Litman as the caller. Worley Gardner took over the dances in 1972, and his dances were featured in Robert Dalsemer’s book on “West Virginia Square Dances” published in 1982. Taylor Runner learned Worley’s dances and calls big circle and four couple set squares there today. The band changes monthly. Admission is $7 adults, $5 students and $15 family. Morgantown Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance host these events and they are held at 8 p.m. on the 2nd Saturday of each month, except for June, July & August. More information available at http://www.morgantowndance.com/
Worley Gardner Music Festival Square Dances on Saturday, February 25th at 8 p.m. Admission is $5. Taylor Runner calls Worley Gardner’s Four Couple Square Dances. Held at 500 East Parkway Drive in Morgantown. More information available at www.gymf.org
ELKINS, Randolph County
Since 1972, Augusta Heritage Center has held dances as a part of their summer programming. This year Augusta is now holding dances once a month all year round. Dates are January 18, February 8, March 15, April 12, May 3, September 7, November 8 & December 6 at 8 p.m. with a beginning workshop at 7:45 p.m. They are held in the Myles Center for the Arts Pit Dance Studio on Davis and Elkins College Campus throughout the year and in the Augusta open air pavilion during the summer. Here you can find both mountain circle and four-couple sets, contras, and an occasional Honky-Tonk, Cajun two- step & waltz, Blues & Swing. All dances cost $7. $5 for AmeriCorps & Students and free to D&E community. Augusta Heritage Center Summer program dances run July 7 – 27th. More information available at https://augustaheritagecenter.org
The Charm Farm Barn Dance and Dinner held on July 6th features big circle dances and four couple squares to Andy Fitzgibbon & Friends. Doors open at 4 p.m. Admission: $30 and includes dances and dinner. The dance is held at the Charm Farm in Beverly. For more information: https://thecharm.farm
HELVETIA, Randolph County
Helvetians have held onto their Swiss identity through music, dancing, food and festivals. Mountain circle dances were brought to Helvetia by wood hicks and sawmill workers and there it mixed with the traditional waltzes, polkas, and other dances of German-Swiss origin. Local residents call dances from the floor to the Helvetia Star Band which features; Joe McInroy, Woody Higginbotham, James Sayre, Bill Talbot and Lee Simes. Dances are held on the first Saturday of most months at 8pm in the Community Hall or Star Band Hall, unless there is a celebration that month. Dates for 2019: February 2 – Fasnacht, April 6, April 27 – Ramp Supper, May 31 – June 2, May 4, July 6, August 3, September 14 – Helvetia Fair, October 5, November 2 & December 7 – Feast of St. Nicholas. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children age 12 and under. A short walk from the dance hall is the Hutte, a restaurant where great Swiss food has been served for over 40 years. The community hall is located on Helvetia-Pickens Road. More information available at http://www.helvetiawv.com/
BUCKHANNON, Upshur County
Mountain Music & Dance at the Buckhannon Opera House is kicking off a monthly series on the 2nd Thursday of every month on Thursday, January 24th. Circles Dances, Reels, Contras, Waltzes and Squares will be called. All dances are taught, beginners welcome, no partner needed. Doors open at 6 p.m. workshop at 6:45 p.m. dancing starts at 7 p.m. Admission is $5, students with ID $3, and children 12 and under are free. Held at 12 East Main Street. For more information call 304-472-8369.
IRELAND, Lewis County
The tradition of community square dancing in Ireland, WV, goes back well beyond the thirty-three years of the annual Irish Spring Festival on March 15th. Square dances were common occurrences to initiate a new barn floor or a new addition on a farm-house. Folks of any age find a well-attended square dance to be good medicine. You can find Rock Garton, Jenny Smith, Tater Blake and Grafton Wine playing music while David Russell, Doyle Gillium and other local callers direct big circle dances as they dance on the floor. Dancing starts at 7pm. The Ireland Community Center located off of old Route 19 at 65 Community Drive. Admission is Free. More Information available at www.angelfire.com/wv/irishspringfestival/
WESTON, Lewis County
Square Dances are held on an irregular basis at the Lewis County Senior Center. If you are interested in going, please send us an email. Big Circle Dances are called by David Russell, Mark Crabtree, and Doyle Gillium. If you attend please plan to make a small donation. The Lewis County Senior Center is located at 171 West 2nd Street, Weston.
Jackson’s Mill Jubilee is an annual celebration of Appalachian Heritage. There are educational demonstrations, featuring Bluegrass music concerts, Native American Style Dancing, Chainsaw Carvings, Gristmill demos, Homestead Activities, Photography, Needle Arts and Quilt Show, Antique Tractors and Engines, Carriage Rides, Civil War Encampment, Top quality Artisans, a Kid’s Land for the younger festival participants and a Square Dance with Rock Garton and friends! There is fun for the entire family. The square dance is held on Friday, August 30th from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is $5. WVU Jackson’s Mill is located at 160 WVU Jackson’s Mill, Weston. For more information: http://www.jacksonsmilljubilee.net/schedule.html
SUTTON, Braxton County
Square dances in Braxton County thrived throughout the 1980s. It is now rejuvenated with help Wilda Skidmore of the Sutton Mayor’s Office. Mack Samples from Clay County calls traditional four-couple sets to the spirited fiddling of Dave Bing and the Full Moon Boys. There will be a dance held on April 20th in conjunction with the annual Melvin Wine Memorial Celebration in the community building located in the courthouse square on 4th street in downtown Sutton. Dance begins at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5.
GLENVILLE, Gilmer County
“Come to Glenville, Come to Glenville” says caller Bill Ohse. Many believe the best square dances held anywhere are downtown on the specially designed wooden platform during the West Virginia State Folk Festival, June 20 – 22. Dances are held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights around 8 p.m. The music is always provided by hard-driving old-time string bands selected from around the state. Square dance callers from all over the region rotate calling traditional four-couple set square dances. While there is no instruction for beginners, experienced square dancers are always willing to lend a hand. Admission is free. Keep your ears open for square dances throughout the year at Club 33 – 4590 US-33, 4 miles northeast of Glenville. More information available at http://www.wvstatefolkfestival.com
CLIFFTOP, Fayette County
The Appalachian Stringband Festival is a large gathering of old-time musicians from around the country. It will be held July 31 – August 3 at Camp Washington Carver featuring four couple squares & big circle dances called by West Virginia’s finest callers to the region’s best old-time musicians. Dances start at 8 p.m. Admission is $15 adults and is $10 for students per evening, you can also purchase a weekend pass that includes camping. The festival is held at Camp Washington Carver HC 35, Clifftop. For more information: www.wvculture.org/stringband
CHARLESTON, Kanawha County
The Vandalia Gathering brings together the finest traditional Appalachian musicians for a weekend of great picking at the Capital Complex in Charleston. Visitors to the Gathering can enjoy fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar contests outside during the day, storytelling, square dances and concerts in the State Theater in the evenings. Dances are called by the regions finest callers on May 25th & 26th from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. More information available at http://www.wvculture.org/vandalia/
HUNTINGTON, Cabell County
Huntington Old-Time Dance and Music is diving into the holding monthly dances with all-star musicians and callers. Square dances are 7-10 p.m. and are scheduled to be held February 9th, March 8th, April 12th, May 11th. Suggested donations are welcomed but not required. $7 for adults, $5 for students. Dances are held at the Trinity Episcopal Church, Heritage Farm Museum and Village and Marshall University. Stay in touch with them on Facebook.