In Sautee Nacoochee, a small community in White County, there is a whitewashed wooden structure that was built in the 1930s as a community project - a "gym raising," so to speak.
And in that historic gym, on the original wooden floor, members of that community dance regularly to live Appalachian and Celtic music. They dance simple steps to a caller's instructions, steps that are both a footprint of history, danced for hundreds of years, and a few that have evolved in more recent times.
Folks young (under age 8 are free) and young at heart (including a handful of octogenarians) gather at the gym each month to share a meal, catch up and dance at Contra Dance.
Contra dancing (derived from the word "country") is relaxed, upbeat and easy to learn. It has its roots in New England and Appalachia, and before that in Celtic song and dance. There's always a fiddler on stage, an essential part of the various bands who come to play in this special venue.
No experience is needed to have a great time at a contra dance in Sautee, and no partner is necessary; most folks enjoy "mixing it up" and dancing with different people.
Newcomers are invited to participate in the Welcome Lesson at 7:30 p.m. As each dance is introduced, dancers walk through the steps several times before they're put to music.
The Thanksgiving Contra Dance at SNCA has become one of the year's favorites. Family members and friends visiting from out of town join with local residents and dancers from Atlanta, Athens, Dahlonega, Gainesville and beyond for a special night of fellowship and fun.
This Thanksgiving, maestros Laurie Fisher and David Knight will provide the music for the dance as the duo "Evil Twins." Their Celtic sound will be joined by one of the region's most popular contra dance callers, Cis Hinkle.
The night will begin with a potluck supper at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome and encouratged to bring a dish to share. Plates, utensils and water are provided (dances are alcohol-free).
It is recommend that people dress comfortably and wear shoes that aren't slippery. Flats or low heels work best.