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INDEPENDENCE – While no one in attendance could provide the exact date of the first weekly Friday night dance at the local senior center, October 4, 2019, is the date that the last such event was held.

For 30 years or so, people have come from far and wide to dance, chat, and snack every Friday night. Approximately 50 people were in attendance on October 4. The Hoedowners, a five-piece band, provided the music.

The dances also served as a place to celebrate special occasions. The last dance was no different. Betty Recker of Manchester, known as “the cake lady,” provided a special cake to mark the 99th birthday of Grant McKee of Walker.

Taking money at the door on Friday night was Dottie Cleghorn of Waterloo. Since 2015, she and her friend, Don Porter of Manchester, have been running the weekly dance. They are stepping down, and no one locally has stepped up to take over the reins of organizing the event.

In recent years, attendance at the dances has dropped sharply. Many of the regulars have moved away, passed away, or are no longer able to participate, and a new crop of attendees hasn’t appeared.

The friendships that have been made at these dances over the years are real. “I met Don at a dance years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since,” Cleghorn said.

Reminiscing about past dances was the topic of the evening. Among those at the last dance were Don and Joan Anders of Newhall, Larry Goodman of North English, and Jan Drayfahl of Washington. Don Anders said he and Goodman started playing at the center in Independence about 30 years ago. Previously, they had been playing a regular gig in Hazleton.

“One thing led to another, and we started playing here,” Anders said.

Other communities represented at the dance included West Union and Maynard.

Another couple at Friday’s dance was Jean and Melvin Schneef. According to Cleghorn, Jean was a key to getting the dances established at the senior center years ago. Married for 69 years, the Schneefs had front-row seats at the last dance and were greeted by many of those in attendance.