Aileen “Poochey” Greene has been clogging for 44 years, and even at age 77, she has no intention of stopping.
“That’s the place I am me, on the dance floor,” said Greene. “That’s the only time nothing bothers me.”
Greene was a founding member of the popular clogging outfit the Southern Appalachian Cloggers.
Its current director Keith Silvers grew up clogging at the Maggie Valley Playhouse and the Waynesville Armory, where every Friday and Saturday night, regulars from the community would join together for a square dance with a live band.
Silvers went with his mom, who was the lead lady, and his dad, who was a square dance caller, like Silvers is today. “It was part of my life, and I started when I was 5 years old,” said Silvers. “I’m about 52 now and still doing it.”
Haywood County’s Southern Appalachian Cloggers has been in existence since 1967. Since then, it has performed for Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The group has earned its share of trophies over the years. Now, they are a regular at festivals, conventions and charity benefits.
The Southern Appalachian Cloggers are a nonprofit, and any money they make goes only to operating expenses.
“Nobody gets a dime,” said Silvers. “We do it out of our enjoyment.”
The Cloggers include members from as young as 18 to as old as 87. Age really does seem like it’s just a number when the older members get clogging. Admirers often come up to the group after shows to tell the cloggers they’ve still got it.
Greene remembers the days there were so many clogging teams they were hard to count.
“The competition was so keen, it was unreal,” said Greene.
Only five or so of the original members remain with the group, carrying on the traditions that were originally established in Appalachia. Younger cloggers are changing steps and putting less emphasis on keeping in time with the music, according to Greene.
“We do it like it used to be done back in the olden days,” said Greene.
Silvers is heartened to see other clogging groups, like the Fines Creek Flatfooters and Mountain Traditions, form over the years.
“We are getting older,” said Silvers. “I’d like to see it go on ... It’s a dying out thing, and it would be nice if everybody got a chance and could support it to keep it going.”
Silvers added clogging has had a positive influence on kids, who are too active dancing to get into trouble with drugs and the like.
For those who are itching to try, Silvers invites everyone to get in touch with the cloggers at festivals or just give them a call.
Once a month, there’s a community dance at Fines Creek. It’s a chance to get in touch with the era Silvers remembers from his youth, a time when the people who came to one dance couldn’t wait to come back the next.
The Southern Appalachian Cloggers will be performing at the Mountain Music Jamboree on Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
Dances are usually held the first Saturday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Fines Creek Community Center.
Attendees of the 2nd Annual Mountain Music Jamboree will not only enjoy delicious BBQ and traditional mountain music — they will help the Haywood County Fairgrounds stay alive.
The festival will benefit the struggling venue, which has lost all funding from the Haywood County government. “This is something that people really need to support with these budget cuts,” said Roy Kirkpatrick, administrative assistant for the Haywood fairgrounds board.
The Jamboree will kick off with a BBQ dinner at 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 14, for $7. Lively music follows at 6 p.m. with performances by Paul’s Creek String Band, Water Bluegrass, Buncombe Turnpike, Gray Wolf and The Unexpected.
“We think it’s really going to be an exciting evening of top quality bluegrass music,” said Sam Smith with the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
One featured band is Paul’s Creek Band, whose guitarist Carol Rifkin was featured in the BBC documentary “Down Home, Appalachia to Nashville,” the movie “Songcatcher,” and more. Rifkin has been a member of the Green Grass Clogger for more than 30 years and appeared with the group in two Emmy Award-winning shows. Rifkin is also a founding member of the Lake Eden Arts Festival and a journalist who hosts WNCW’s “This Old Porch.”
Banjo player Troy Harrison plays two and three finger bluegrass plus old timey claw hammer, Jamie Soesbee is an award-winning bass player who genre jumps with ease, and Tim Gardner is an award-winning fiddler and multi-instrumentalist from Brevard.
Also at the jamboree, well-known Southern Appalachian Cloggers and the up and coming junior Fines Creek Flatfooters will wow the crowd with dances all night long.
Master of ceremonies will be WPTL DJ Cliff Hannah and Randy Johnston will take care of sound.
Admission tickets may be purchased at the door for $12 or purchased in advance for $10 at Strains of Music, Joey’s Pancake House, Duvall’s Restaurant, and Ammons’ Drive-In Restaurant, and the Haywood Café.