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.
Click the links to learn more about today's contra dance community, contra dancing in the national park, and the history of the contra dance in the Cuyahoga Valley.
In Their Own Words
Click the topics to hear stories about Cuyahoga Valley life.
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Everett Dance Hall (1 minute 3 seconds)
Street Dance (35 seconds)
Hay Wagon Orchestra (10 seconds)