Square dances set in Randolph County

This area used to be bustling with square dances; Harman and Canaan Valley both had large dance platforms, and the log cabin in Elkins, among other places, hosted dances every weekend.

Delmas Evans, dance caller, remembers when about 30 couples attended the dance each weekend and the whole floor was full.

“That’s just the way things went in Harman. Everybody knew how to square dance, and if you didn’t you would learn on the fly; the caller never explained the dances,” Evans said.

But things have changed in the last decade, said Ron Mullennex, who grew up in Harman.

“It was really well received and attended. … It was part of the culture. It isn’t now,” Mullennex said.

However, with the help of The Mountain Dance Trail of Augusta Heritage Center and Davis & Elkins College, dances are becoming popular again. Local high school and college students have begun coming to local dances, younger people are starting to call square dances and more folks are noticing how unique this West Virginia tradition is.

“It needs to be preserved as much as it can,” stated Jack Judy, a musician.

Anyone interested in joining the fun can check out two local events this weekend.

A dance is set for 8 p.m. today at the Randolph County Community Arts Center on Randolph Avenue, where the Elkins Country Dance Society’s monthly square dance will take place. A workshop for beginners will be at 7:45 p.m. Lou Mauiri will call squares, and Andy Fitzgibbon will lead the old-time string band on fiddle.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, there will be a square dance and cake walk at the Harman VFW Hall on U.S. 33 near the Dry Fork River. Jack Hedrick and Red Creek Junction will play lively old-time dance tunes as Evans and Don Olson holler out square dance figures. The Harman VFW Ladies Auxiliary will have refreshments for sale.

Beginners and children are welcome at both events, and no experience or partner is necessary. There is a charge for admission.

In its second year, The Mountain Dance Trail is assisting communities throughout the state. A complete schedule is available at www.mountaindancetrail.org. Information also is available by calling Augusta Heritage Center at 304-637-1349. The West Virginia Humanities Council, The West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts lend support to the project.