Beckley Area Shag Club will be hosting their fourth annual Mardi Gras Party at the Beckley Moose Club at 410 New River Drive on Saturday, Feb. 22, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

Denise Wilson, club secretary and Mardi Gras Committee Chair, says the Mardi Gras Party will be an event for everyone.

“We used to do a Valentine’s Day event, but I always felt like it was just for couples and not for single people. We wanted to have an event where everyone could feel included and have fun and the idea for Mardi Gras just fell right into place.”

Wilson, who discovered shag dancing with her husband as a way to fill time when their children went away to college, described this particular style of dance as one that “born from the rhythms and blues of the Carolina beaches.”

Shag dancing, also known as the Carolina Shag, began on the beaches of South Carolina in the 1940s.

Similar to the Jitterbug, Shag is a six-count, eight-step, high energy couples dance that is often referred to as “the swing dance of the South.”

Today, Myrtle Beach hosts a yearly shag convention that welcomes nearly 15,000 dancers.

According to Wilson, shag eventually made its way to West Virginia. The Beckley Area Shag Club became the first shag club in the state when it began in 1993.

There are now four other shag clubs scattered across West Virginia’s mountains.

The Beckley club started off small, but now has over 100 members, which range from junior shaggers to dancers who are in their eighties.

“We have found a terrific amount of people that we have made friendships with here. We just fell in love with this whole way of life. Shag is a very social dance and once you learn it you can with anybody, anywhere in the country. It’s this whole other society.”

The Mardi Gras Party will feature beach music, a cash bar, door prizes and DJ Fessa’ John Hook- a Myrtle Beach radio deejay well known in the shag community, who has studied the history of the dance in different locations and published several books on his findings.

The event is not being catered, so the Beckley Area Shag Club is encouraging everyone to bring their own snacks.

At 10 p.m. desserts and coffee will be made available to make sure everyone has enough energy to keep dancing the night away.

“We just hope that everyone has a lot of fun and that a lot of friendships are made,” Wilson shared. “It is so important to just get out and be social. I see people in their seventies and eighties and I just love to see them out socializing and not at home. It is fun to get out and do something for ourselves. Even if you can’t dance, just come listen to the music and have a good evening.”

Tickets for the Mardi Gras Party will be $10 at the door for members and $20 for the general public. Advanced tickets can be purchased by sending a check to the Beckley Area Shag Club at PO Box 395, Beckley, WV 25802.

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