HMFS History

A Short History by Chris Bueker

It all started in November of 1989… My friends John and Anne Arrington and I went to the fall Black Mountain Music Festival (the predecessor to LEAF) at Camp Rockmont. We walked into the dining hall and discovered the magic of contra dancing. The room was packed with sweaty, smiling people, all moving in some mysterious and complex dance, to some great acoustic music. We had no idea what they were doing, or how in the world they knew how to do it, but it sure looked like fun. It was amazing – there would be mass confusion one second, then all of a sudden there was order. I think they were doing a hey. We were rather intimidated by the scene, and did not attempt to get out on the floor to join in, but we all agreed – it looked like something we wanted to learn how to do.

We got back to Greenville, and started asking around. John tracked down Craig Dubose, a Greenville musician who was in the contra dance community (already established, but unknown to us). Craig said he would be glad to teach us to dance. John and I called all of our friends and invited them to join us. We had about 40 people show up at the Bobby Pearce Shelter on Townes St. on a Sunday evening in November. Craig was very patient with us, most of whom had never even heard of contra dancing. We started from scratch, and stumbled through 2 dances that evening. We had a great time, passed the hat for Craig, and agreed we should do it again in December. We had another dance there, and again everyone enjoyed it. Craig told us that there was a real contra dance scheduled for January, at the Sears Shelter in Greenville, sponsored by the Greenville County Recreation Department, so we decided to go and check that out.

We showed up at the Sears Shelter, and were pleasantly surprised to find some people who knew how to dance. I think that Craig’s band was playing. Live music was a treat – we had been dancing to tapes at the previous dances. Once again, we had a great time. We learned that the County had been sponsoring occasional dances, but did not want to continue with it. We talked to them and offered to take over the organization of the dance. They gave us their mailing list, and Harvest Moon Folk Society was officially born.

We held dances at a variety of venues. We had a couple of dances at the Sears Shelter, then moved on to the Cleveland Park Gym. We danced there for a while, until they decided to tear it down. We danced at the YWCA, Slater Hall (in Slater-Marietta), and at a church here in Greenville.

After dancing a while, we decided to get serious and buy a sound system. Weogo Reed and I went looking, and with the considerable help of John Duggan, we bought what we thought was a pretty good system. We have upgraded slightly since then! Weogo became our official sound engineer, and was later joined by Mike Compton.

At some point (Spring of 1993?), by attending a wedding there, we discovered the Barn at Table Rock State Park. We immediately made plans for a weekend festival, which we decided to call Moondance (thanks, Anne Arrington for that idea), and even held some regular dances there.

We had gotten to know Leon Chapman while we were dancing at Slater Hall. Leon ran a package store in Marietta, and was using a place called River Falls Lodge, which was built (as a dance hall!) in the 1940’s, as a storage place for his extensive collection of “stuff”. We were dancing at Table Rock, I think, when Leon suggested we might look at River Falls as a possible dance hall. A bunch of us (me, John Arrington, Leon, Weogo Reed, Bruce McCandless, —anybody remember who else???? John Duggan? Roger Burns? ) met there, and looked the place over. It was quite a mess! The roof was leaking, the floor was falling thru in spots, part of the structure was actually falling down. And it was full of stuff. Leon is a rather avid collector! We could see the possibilities, though. We all felt that with some serious work, we might have a wonderful dance hall there. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

We patched the roof, tore down the section over the “patio”, replaced a good bit of floor, hauled away tons of stuff, cleaned up tons of dirt, fixed the plumbing, installed a working electrical system, and worked on the grounds. We learned, after dancing there for a while, that the floor was significantly out of level, so we organized a work party to address that. Weogo came up with a cool homemade jacking system and we jacked the whole building up to as close to level as we could manage.

We have continued to put time and money into the building and are proud to host contra dances at River Falls Lodge. Many dancers consider it to be one of the best contra dance halls around.