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 Autumn Harvest Festival, Saturday, September 25 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 11, February 8, March 14, August 15, November 14.
CASS, Pocahontas County
There is an annual Cass Reunion Square Dance on June 20th 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 11. Admission is free to these dances.
New this year the Highland County Arts Council is hosting several square dance at the Highland Center in Monterey on January 25, April 25, June 27, and August 22 at 7 p.m. Dances will include big circle dances called by Ellen & Eugene Ratcliffe, two-stepping, waltzes and a few line dances. The Highland Center – 61 Highland Center Drive, Monterey www.highlandcountyartscouncil.org
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 11 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
52nd Treasure Mountain Festival is a long-standing tradition in Pendleton County, and the dance features local Pendleton County old-time musicians. Square dances take place on both Friday, September 18 and Saturday, September 19 at 8 p.m. in the parking lot in downtown Franklin. Admission is free. More information available at www.tmf.squarespace.com
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 one of the first musicians playing for dances there, with Ross Litman as the caller. Worley Gardner took over the dances in 1972. Taylor Runner learned Worley’s dances and calls big circle and four couple set square dances there today. The band and callers change monthly. Admission is $5 adults and $15 family. Morgantown Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance host these events at 7:30 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 Dance on Saturday, February 29 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. Augusta is now also holding dances several times during the year. Dates for 2020 are January 17, February 7, April 3, May 1, June 5, September 4 & October 16 at 8 p.m. with a beginning workshop at 7:45 p.m. Please check the Augusta website for location details as the events are held in several spaces around Elkins and the Davis & Elkins College campus. At Augusta you can find mountain circle dances, four-couple set squares, contras, honky-tonk and Cajun two-steps & waltzes, blues and swing dance. All dances cost $7. $5 for AmeriCorps & Students and free to D&E community. Augusta Heritage Center Summer Program dances run July 5–25th with dances most nights Sun–Fri each week in the open air pavilion. Please check the website for updated time and location information closer to your visit. https://augustaheritagecenter.org
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 22 – Fasnacht, March 7, April 25 – Ramp Supper, May 2, June 6, August 1, September 12 – Helvetia Fair, October 3, November 8 & December 5 – 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 continuing with a 2nd year of events on the 2nd Thursday of every month. Circle Dances, Waltzes, Two Steps, and Squares will be called. All dances are taught, beginners welcome, no partner needed. It is a social event with food and drink available for purchase. Come watch even if you don’t want to dance. 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 the Buckhannon Opera House, 12 East Main Street. For more information call 304-472-8369 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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 13. 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 call 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 Irish Spring Festival Facebook Page.
WESTON, Lewis County
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, September 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Jubilee Pavilion. 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
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 18 – 20. 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. Held July 29 – August 1 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 22 & 23 from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. More information available at http://www.wvculture.org/vandalia/
The Kanawha Valley Friends of Old Time Music and Dance (FOOTMAD) is celebrating 40 years of hosting community dances. Beginner lessons at 6:45 p.m., Dancing from 7 to 10 p.m. Appalachian circle dances, waltzes, squares and contras featuring regional string bands and callers. Suggested admission $7, under 13 and AmeriCorps members FREE. Dances are held in the activity building of Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church, 317 W Washington St, Charleston. FOOTMAD.org or 304-729-4382.
HUNTINGTON, Cabell County
Huntington Old-Time Dance and Music is holds monthly dances with an all-star line-up. Dances from 7-10 pm on Jan. 11 (Trinity Episcopal church), Feb 15 (Trinity), Mar 14, Apr 11, Sep 19, Oct 17, Nov 21 – all at Heritage Farm and Museum. Featuring local and regional bands and callers to squares, contra, and circles. Refreshments served. Pre-instruction before dances start. No partner needed. Suggested donations of $7 adults, $5 students, 12 and under free. For more information call 304-412-4889 Follow us on Facebook at Huntington Old Time Dance and Music.