A weekly dose of danceFines Creek invites the community out
FINES CREEK — The stars seem brighter out here.
Maybe that’s a romantic notion, or maybe it’s simply true, as little Fines Creek is miles away from all those well-lit grocery stores, gas stations and parking lots in Waynesville, Canton and Clyde. Even on a Saturday night, the tucked-away township is often nearly silent, with only a few glowing houses illuminating the pitch black.
At least, that’s how it used to be. Last Saturday, just like every Saturday for months, the old Fines Creek School was shaken awake with cloggers, line dancers, cake walkers and live tunes. Once a sporadic affair, old-time community dances have now become a weekly thing in the historic stone schoolhouse.
For dance fans like Fannie Dorland, it was about time.
“Haywood County’s been needing this,” she said, smiling.
She and her sweetie, James Strictland, certainly have, which is why they decided to take over the event recently. For the last 10 years or so, they’ve traveled all over the state and beyond looking for new places to kick up their heels. Now, the Fines Creek residents have decided to cool them for a while in their own backyard. Instead of going hither and yon every weekend, they’re spending their Saturdays taking tickets, manning the 50/50 raffle, serving up hot dogs and, of course, getting in a few dances together.
Attendance has been strong at these intimate events, but Dorland stressed that even if it wasn’t, they’d all still be having a good time. Even if only 20 people were there, she explained, she would treat them like 200. For her, and for many of her neighbors, this a much-needed chance to cut loose.
“It’s something that’s a treat every week,” she said. “You never know who you’re going to see.”
That night, it was a typical mix of young and old, couples and singles, locals with roots many generations deep and visitors checking out the scene for the first time. While it took a little while for the night’s countrified band, Carolina Misty, to warm people up and coax them out of their seats, once they were up, they pretty much stayed that way. In no time, the sound of tap shoes was drowning out of the friendly chatter coming from the long tables, and just about everyone had taken at least one spin around the dance floor.
Susan Livengood was an exception, but the Fines Creek artist looked to be getting all the juice she needed just taking in the scene.
“I enjoy watching the people,” she said, adding that she believes you’ve got to have “energy” to keep a building going.
It was all around her there that night, which was heartening for Livengood, as her studio also lives in the old school. It makes her happy to know that the money collected from these dances goes right back into the historic schoolhouse.
It’s a “symbiotic” relationship, Livengood explained, but even without it, it’s clear she’d still be tickled by these get-togethers.
“I mean, those guys are waltzing,” she said, looking out on the crowd. “You just don’t see that anywhere anymore.”
But Fines Creek, as people around here know, isn’t like anywhere else. As Kim Ross, one of the most familiar faces of the J. Creek Cloggers, explained, Fines Creek has an old-time “mountain town” feel. Though her home community of Jonathan Creek is many miles away, even as the crow flies, she feels a connection to this little place.
It’s almost like “we’re a part of them, and they’re a part of us,” she said.
That’s part of why she and her clogging team — which includes her two musical sons, Zeb and Levi — make a point to be in Fines Creek every single Saturday. It’s good practice during the winter, she explained, not to mention a nice break from the world.
“And out here you really can’t get cell phone service, so everyone’s enjoying each other,” she said. “They don’t have anything bothering them.”
Even one of the night’s youngest participants, at the age probably most frustrated by a lack of digital connection, seemed to agree. Twelve-year-old Cade Parkins didn’t say a thing about the lack of cell phone “bars” when describing the dance. Instead, Parkins — who is best known for his fancy footwork in the young clogging group the Fines Creek Flatfooters — just focused on what it feels like to visit the dance each week. He and his grandma never miss it, and he can tell you why.
“You can just go out there and have fun and listen to music and dance,” Parkins said.
That might sound simple — and that might just be what matters.
Dancing on Fines Creek
The Saturday night community dance, which costs $7 for adults and is free for children under 12, always includes a cake walk, 50/50 raffle and refreshments for sale — in addition to a rotating roster of musicians — from 7 to 10 p.m. Here's who's on tap for the next few weeks.
Jan. 19 — Jericho Hill
Jan. 26 — Carolina Misty
Feb. 2 — Heart Of The South