The Jug Tavern Square Dance Club of Winder will celebrate its 50th anniversary Friday, Sept. 27, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the Brad Akins YMCA in Winder.

The Barrow County Parks and Recreation Department offered a square dance class in 1968 that was taught by Charles Sims. There were 18 couples that participated in that first class that took 15 weeks to learn the basic terms associated with Western Square Dance. After graduation in February 1969, they enjoyed the activity so much that the group decided to form a dance club and voted to call themselves the Jug Tavern Squares (Jug Tavern being the former name of Winder). The class was so successful that the Parks and Recreation Department continued to offer additional square dance classes for adults and teens, which provided a continuous membership into the club. They also joined the numerous clubs already established that formed the Northeast Georgia Federation of Square Dancers (NEGF).

The Jug Tavern Squares were so popular that the members built their own dance venue on Wright Street called “The Barn.” When the club out grew that location, they danced at the Beach Pavilion at Fort Yargo, then a couple of school gymnasiums, the Methodist Church fellowship hall, Watson Hall, the American Legion and currently the club dances at the Brad Akins YMCA in Winder.

Jug Tavern Squares is completely self-supporting and does not draw funds from any organization, leaders said. The members pay nominal dues to cover rental of the dance hall and to pay the callers and cuers’ fees. The club functions under the leadership of elected officers and members serving on various committees.

JTS offers classes once a year for anyone ages 8 years and up, and once they graduate most become members of the club. By belonging to the club, members can attend dances free at other clubs in the Northeast Georgia Federation. The purpose of the federation is to be an advisory group and a central agency sharing information from other clubs throughout the state. The members also dance at festivals and fairs throughout the state, different state conventions and at the National Square Dance Convention which is held in a different state each year. The NEGF just sponsored the 68th National Square Dance Convention in Atlanta, where over 4,000 dancers from around the world came together to dance.

Over the years, the club has provided assistance and support to numerous causes. The club has raised money for the American Cancer Society and the local homeless veterans organization, and every year provides toys and money for the Winder Fire Department’s Toys for Kids at Christmas Program. The club also supports the YMCA Camp Scholarships and donates to other Children’s charities. Over the last four years, the club has held a special dance to give thanks and recognition to the local law enforcement. The club also provides entertainment at festivals, and for civic groups, schools and senior centers in the area.

When the square dancers perform an exhibition, or attend a special event, they are often in full regalia or costume. The ladies wear full dresses or two-piece outfits trimmed with ribbon and lace layered over colorful crinolines and petti-pants. The men are often booted and belted in cowboy style of bright or decorated shirts with matching pants or jeans and some wear western hats. However, these days many choose to wear less formal dance attire for regular dances, leaders said.

“Square dancing is often promoted as ‘friendship set to music,’ so it is a wonderful way to make new friends. It is also a perfect family activity that the whole family can do,” leaders said. “Perhaps the best explanation for square dancing or dancing of any type is the health benefits. Every health institution and health publication has placed exercise, diet and social connection at the top of their list for maintaining good health. Square Dancing meets two of these. Dancing improves blood circulation and cardiovascular conditioning, is an excellent weight-bearing activity to build strong bones, boosts your immune system, lower your risk of arthritis and cancer and helps control diabetes.

“Square dancing forces the body and brain to be coordinated to a number of calls or cues that keeps the brain in better shape, which studies show helps to slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also show that any form of strong social ties and socialization contributes to high self-esteem and a more positive outlook on life. As with any new exercise activity, you should first check with your doctor. Square dancing also meets the physical education requirements for home school.”

The Jug Tavern Squares dance at the YMCA on the second and fourth Friday nights from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

“Please come and visit a dance and see how much fun we have dancing together. We invite you to our next set of square dance lessons, too,” leaders said.

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