He Called It

Grand Ole Opry vet Walt Puckett  is a natural choice to lead century-old dance tradition in Hendersonville. Photo by Rimas Zailskas

Grand Ole Opry vet Walt Puckett is a natural choice to lead century-old dance tradition in Hendersonville. Photo by Rimas Zailskas

 

The 97th Annual Street Dance

The summer’s last Street Dance with caller Walt Puckett happens August 10 from 7-9pm outside the Visitors Center, 201 South Main St., Downtown Hendersonville). historichendersonville.org, 828-693-9708, 800-828-4244.

The 97th Annual Street Dance, hosted by the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, features the 5-piece bluegrass band Bobby & Blue Ridge Tradition, the Mountain Thunder Cloggers, and dance caller Walt Puckett. The Street Dance has been a favorite tradition in Hendersonville ever since locals flooded the streets to celebrate the return of soldiers from World War I. Bold Life talked to Mr. Puckett about his own history with the event and the square-dance tradition, which he’s been involved with for almost his entire life.

Bold Life: What got you into square dancing?
Walt Puckett: It’s kind of strange. My 3rd-grade class was put in charge of entertainment for the PTA. The teacher asked if anyone knew how to square dance, and I raised my hand. She made me the leader.

How far did you go?
In high school I was a member of a clogging square-dance group, the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers. We were sent to seven different festivals — and won all of them. I did that until I was 21 years old. I was in the Stony Mountain Cloggers, too. That was fun and interesting. I clogged at the Grand Ole Opry during that time. We went all over, riding four guys and three women in a Rambler station wagon with all our luggage on the roof.

Walt Puckett says, "Mountain-type square dancing is easy to learn. It’s mostly follow the leader. I can have everybody dance with everybody, mixing it up."

Walt Puckett says, “Mountain-type square dancing is easy to learn. It’s mostly follow the leader. I can have everybody dance with everybody, mixing it up.”

How do you learn how to call the dances?
I just picked it up by watching the other callers.

But you have to read your audience, don’t you?
Yes. But mountain-type square dancing is easy to learn. It’s mostly follow the leader. I can have everybody dance with everybody, mixing it up. At the dances on Main Street that’s important, because you have all different levels — from little kids to 80- and 90-year-olds.

Tell us how long you’ve been doing this.
On and off for a number of years. Several years ago, the guy who was the regular caller retired and he strongly recommended me. They called and asked me, so I took over. But the first time I called one of the Hendersonville street dances was back when I was 16.

That was probably a long time ago, right?
Yeah. I’m 72 now.

 

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