Tioga County Contradance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday

Tioga County Contradance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on SundayPictured is the O' Shangians Quartet. From left, are members Margaret Ball, Philip Robinson, Katrina Mackey, and Michael Ludgate. Provided photo.

Tioga County Contradance will celebrate St. Patrick ’s Day with a dance from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church located at 117 Main St. in Owego. The dance is open to the public, and beginners are welcome. Admission is $5 per person. 

O’Shanigans Quartet will be playing live Irish music, and Hilton Baxter will teach and call each dance. The contra dance band, O’Shanigans, was originally formed by Phil Robinson to fill a fun gig for Saint Patrick’s Day in March of 2009. The members shift and change a bit, but Phil and Mike Ludgate are usually at the core.

The band plays for weddings and other events, but enjoys visiting Owego to play for contra dances. This will be Margaret’s first time playing for Tioga County Contradance. The O’Shanigans Quartet is Margaret Ball-Lumumba (fiddle), Philip Robinson (guitar), Michael Ludgate (mandolin, foot percussion), and Katrina Mackey (flute, fiddle). 

Contradance is an historic tradition in Central New York. It is a cooperative dance style in which you dance with everyone in the room. Traditionally everyone in the community did contra dancing, it was a multi-generational event. Tioga County Contradance invites people of different ages to attend.

Tioga County Contradance to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday

Dancers Stuart “Stu” Johnson and Elsa Warner are pictured at a contradance. Provided photo.

Stuart “Stu” Johnson of Owego, at 89 years, is the oldest dancer. He began contra dancing in 1968. Stuart has a lifelong love of live music. When asked what he likes about contra dancing, his response was not a surprise. “The music.” He added, “The music is inspiring. And it’s fabulous exercise.”

Elsa Warner, of Newfield, daughter of Jesse Warner, is their youngest dancer at age six. She attends dances with her sister Faith, and Grandma Carrie Kerr. Elsa started dancing last fall, in 2023. She loves to contra dance because, “I get to dress up and it’s fun!”

For many, the exciting and lively music is what keeps them coming back. People come to dance, socialize, and have a good time. The St. Patrick’s Day dance will prove to be a fun and lively event. New dancers should arrive at the beginning, as they will start with easier dances. Contradancing is joyous, so be sure you bring a smile along with clean soft-soled shoes and comfortable lightweight clothing. 

This project is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a program of the New York State Council on the Arts with support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and administered by the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.

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