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May I have this dance?

October 20, 2012
By KIM LOCCISANO - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

If you enjoy history - and are even fonder of an occasional spin around the dance floor, or simply prefer to watch and enjoy the fun dancing can immediately bring to virtually any situation - then the upcoming Ohio Valley History Expo on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the Ohio County Library in Wheeling from noon to 4 p.m. is something you should pencil into your dance card.

The event will offer a slate of planned activities filled with a variety of popular programming selections for the enjoyment of an audience with varied historical interests, but all will have some tie to the history of this immediate region.

The free public event will feature a wide variety of networking and educational opportunities for anyone interested in local history, genealogy, preservation on various scales, archiving and various related activities and topics, according to organizers. It promises to be an afternoon filled with opportunities seldom seen at this point in our nation's history.

Article Photos

Photos provided
Heritage Dance Association members Jessica and Joe Keller of Martins Ferry practice dance moves for their upcoming dance demo at the Ohio Valley History Expo.

Two of the major events of the afternoon will be a living history presentation highlighting General George Armstrong Custer - a native of Cadiz - and a segment focused on the role various social dance traditions have held at certain times in our nation's history.

Beginning at 1 p.m. will be "A Brief History of Dance in the Ohio Valley," the portion of the programming focused on social dancing and its connection and influence on our nation's history and on the quality of everyday life enjoyed during various eras.

The Martins Ferry-based Heritage Dance Association's members are planning to present a fun-filled and informative program that they hope will not only entertain, but might spark some interest in event-goers to understand its very unique history, but also to consider it the perfect venue in which to combine socializing, a passion for history, and a love of America's tradition of dance.

Martins Ferry residents Don and Angela Feenerty are the founders of the growing organization.

This local group works to improve awareness of and appreciation for the role dance played - and still does - in the development of our nation, including its all important role in the eras when The Ohio Country - the Ohio Valley - was the western boundary of the United States of America.

The History Expo is an annual event hosted by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation, which is dedicated to providing an in depth look into the area's rich historic past.

If you are looking for a dry or stuffy reconnect to some of our nation's most remarkable historical happenings, look somewhere else for entertainment.

"The Heritage Dance Association members will showcase traditional dances dating from the 1770s through the late 1800s, and plans are continuing to offer audience members opportunities to take to the dance floor and join in the history lesson," said Don Feenerty.

The dance organization's performance will begin with the dances that would have been done during the uncertain times of the American Revolutionary War and the battles of Fort Henry.

Next in progression will be the more civilized dances of the American Civil War era.

But the most important element of any equation when it comes to dancing is that all important ingredient: having fun with it.

"The early dances are fun, but I really like the formal feel of the later dances from the 1860s. They have a certain flow and elegance about them," offered HDA member Jessica Keller of Martins Ferry.

The HDA is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to keeping alive the dance traditions of the Ohio Valley. If you are interested in joining in on this popular type of activity, the HDA is currently accepting new members who would like to take part in Early American, Civil War era and German Folk dances and demonstrations.

Every Labor Day weekend, the HDA provides a living history participatory dance demo at Oglebay Park for the Fort Henry Days Reenactment celebration.

The group also provides dance demonstrations at cultural events throughout the area, and is currently working with Civil War history buffs to provide lessons in Civil War era dancing. "You don't have to be a history buff to join us," said Feenerty. "Everyone is welcome, as long as you are willing to commit to the time required to learn the dances."

The HDA practices every week on the Feenerty farm, located in Martins Ferry.

The Feenerty's built an outdoor dance deck specifically to use as a fair weather dance floor.

"We love to dance outside, especially in the fall, when the air is crisp and the leaves are changing," said HDA board member Patricia Kinnison of Bridgeport. "We often dance until dark, using moonlight to guide us back to our cars. It's magical. Everyone should dance outside at least once in their lifetime."

Sharing a table at the History Expo with the Heritage Dance Association will be members of the Fort Henry Living History board of directors. Both HDA and FHLH members will be wearing period-correct clothing of the 1770s. Those interested in the early history of the Wheeling area are encouraged to visit the FHLH and HDA table to talk with members.

For additional details about the Ohio Valley History Expo, call 304-232-3087 or email



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