The contra dance was brought to the Cuyahoga Valley by its first settlers from New England. Although styles became more diverse over the years, dancing remained popular in valley communities through the early 20th century. They offered rare opportunities to meet and socialize with members of the opposite gender. Imagine Saturday nights full of excitement as residents flocked to local dances. An "orchestra" played while dancers followed the directions of the caller. As Helyn Toth explained, "Going to dances was no doubt the number one favorite social event … for people of varied ages in the valley."
While most dances were local affairs, often held by the local Grange, some had a regional draw. Bedford Glens Park, near the edge of Tinker's Creek, began as a summer picnic and dancing resort in 1902, and, by 1924, quickly grew into a year-round dance and bowling emporium. The dance hall attracted popular bands, such as Ed Day and his Ten Knights orchestra. Young and old couples traveled from the valley, Akron, and Cleveland to join crowds in the beautiful, shining ballroom. Sadly, the grand wooden structure was lost to fire in 1944.
Hazel Broughton describes how the Everett community often came together dancing in the road.
The best square dance I can tell you about is I experienced, was a dance, which was called a “street dance.” And my father-in-law didn’t happen to call this dance, but it was at the corner of Everett Road and Riverview Road. Now they kept Everett Road open to Riverview and you could make a left and go to Peninsula, but you couldn’t turn right. That evening, it was a Saturday evening I believe, they closed the street off and we had a street dance. I had never been to a street dance. That was my first and only street dance. We just danced right in the street, and the orchestra was on a hay wagon.
Hay Wagon Orchestra
At the street dances in Everett, Jan Thomas recalls how the band played instruments on top of a hay wagon.
In the big building down there on the corner, where the park has their offices now, that was a dancehall upstairs. Very beautiful dancehall. And downstairs in one end was the bar where you went in the bar and then up the stairs to the dancehall, and the other half my aunt and uncle lived there. That was a big deal on a lotta Saturdays night, too. Back in those days, they danced and danced on Saturday night. The dancehall was the whole upstairs, and it had a special floor for dancing, you know. It might have been oak, I’m not sure, but it was fabulous, and slick, you know, you could—and it was really, really great, I mean… But then downstairs they had a bar, and there were always those who abused that. Nine times out of ten, I guess, in the olden days, that’s before I could even start goin’ there, they always had some kind of a big fight of some kind and ~laughs~ people goin’ home with bloody noses, because that was one of the things they did in olden days. They’d have too much to drink and then they’d fight. I mean, that was their entertainment!