The Westerville Promenaders — sharing memories and making new ones for almost sixty years. The club has been offering exercise, fellowship, and lots of fun for club members and guests since it began. Western style square dancing made its way from California to Ohio in the early 1950’s. That Promenaders Club was started by Paul Moore who lived in Westerville and wanted to teach neighborhood children how to square dance. As a result, several of the parents of these children also learned to square dance and they formed the club in 1958. Classes were held in the basements of the parents, local schools and the Grange Hall in Westerville. While there are no charter members with the club any longer, Beulah Fritsche who, with her late husband Carl, was in the second class which graduated in the fall of 1959; and Ed Conklin and his late wife Ruth, graduated in the spring of 1960. Ruth reported that they graduated after ten lessons in those days with most calls being taught at the regular dances. The club danced at the Indian Run Golf Club located on Africa Road (no longer in existence) for the first couple of years. The Masonic Temple in Westerville was used for the 1961/1962 season, and then the club moved to the Grange Hall of East College Avenue in the fall of 1962. Dances were held at that location until the fall of 2009, when the Club relocated to the Westerville Senior Center at 310 West Main Street, where they currently dance twice a month.
The Promenaders have been quite active in the Westerville community, demonstrating their dancing skills at street fairs, local schools, art fairs, and the like. At one time there were three clubs in Westerville, but only the Promenaders Club remains. A highlight of the dancing season was a “get-a-way” weekend in late February, which began in 1973. The first of these weekends was held at the Salt Fork Lodge in Cambridge, OH. Beginning in 1974, club members and guests traveled to Burr Oak State Park with a final move to Lafayette Hotel in Marietta, OH in 2001. This Promenader sponsored activity was turned over to caller Tom Rudebock and cuer Phyllis Burdette in 2014, and still is enjoyed yearly by dancers from various clubs and various states the last weekend in February.
Each year, the Central Ohio Council of Dance Clubs (COCDC) organizes an Honoree Couple’s competition during which each Club nominates a dancer(s) from their membership. These dancers are selected because of their contributions to square dancing in Central Ohio. One club’s nominee is named as the Honoree Couple of the Year at the March Honoree Dance. The Westerville Promenaders are very proud that five of their current or former members have been so named: Ed and Ruth Conklin – 1999, Bob and Ann Phelps – 2005, Dick and Pat Liston – 2009, Larry and Tahna Pasqua – 2015, and Bill and Gayle Uhl – 2017.
Square dancers as a whole are generous folks, but the Westerville Promenaders seem to go above and beyond in their philanthropic endeavors. Collecting school supplies for Central College Presbyterian Church in September, donating generously to the Toys-for-Tots drive in December, gathering new warm hats, scarves, mittens and gloves for The Church for All Peoples in downtown Columbus in January, and supplying food stuffs for the Central College Presbyterian Church Food Pantry in February. At the annual Flag Dance in June, old and worn out American flags are collected to donate to the Boy Scouts for proper destruction.
While the Promenaders began as a couples only club, the Constitution has been changed allowing single dancers and children over 10 as members. Regular dances are held from September thru the first week of June’s annual Flag Dance. Dances begin at 7 PM and end at 9:45 PM, on the first and third Saturday of each month. There are rounds as well as squares each evening with a varied schedule of square dance callers and round dance cures available during the season. Lessons begin for new dancers each September and run through mid April.
The Promenaders have had many members since 1958, some who have passed on to that great dance hall in the sky, some who have retired and/or relocated, a few no longer able to dance, and some who have moved on to other interests. However, most if not all, would agree that they not only learned how to square dance, but found an extended family to share the good times and find support during the bad times we all face on occasion. Reinforcing the saying, ‘Square Dancing is Friendship set to Music’!