The Westerville Promenaders – sharing memories and making new ones for sixty four 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. The 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, Carl and Beulah Fritsche, were in the second class which graduated in the fall of 1959; and Ed and Ruth Conklin, 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 old Westerville Senior Center at 310 West Main Street. In 2019 when the new Sr Center at 350 N Cleveland Ave, was completed the club moved there, where they currently dance on the first and third Saturdays, from 7:00-9:45 pm.
The Promenaders have been quite active in the Westerville community, demonstrating their dancing skills at street fairs, local schools, art fairs, the state fair, 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 was 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’ for the Central OH District at the March, COCDC All Club Honoree Dance. The Westerville Promenaders are very proud that six 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
Bill and Gayle Uhl – 2017
Bob and Karolyn Smith – 2018
Square dancers as a whole are generous folks, but the Westerville Promenaders seem to go above and beyond in their philanthropic endeavors. In the past they have collected school supplies and baby layettes, and supported the food bank for Central College Presbyterian Church. They also donate generously to the Toys-for-Tots drive in December; plus gathering new warm hats, scarves, mittens and gloves for The Church for All Peoples in downtown Columbus in January; and 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 10 and over, 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 cuers 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 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.
‘Square Dancing is Friendship set to Music’!