Seniors still dancin’

Sandy Conner from Sandy’s Face painting gives Jo Evans, of Culpeper a flower on her cheek.
Photo by Marshall Conner

It all starts with a couple of steps to a favorite song or perhaps a little shuffle. Then like magic a dance erases the aches of aging quicker than any medicine. As children people learn to dance before they understand what they are dancing for—- even before they understand music.

People intrinsically know that it just feels nice to move to the rhythm.

The Austrian writer Vicki Baum once wrote, “There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them.” This was certainly the case at the 9th Annual Senior Prom sponsored by Aging Together held last Saturday. The theme was a Hawaiian-style “Luau” and well over a hundred senior citizens from across five counties enjoyed the rejuvenating power of music, dancing, food and friendship inside the gymnasium of Culpeper Christian School.

Seated by the front door wearing a necklace of blue flowers, floral dress and grass shirt was Freda Tarza, 76, of Warrenton. She greeted local senior citizens with a welcoming smile as they entered the decorated gym. She is a self described “Jersey gal” who loves to dance and have fun.  She is the perfect ambassador of fun and she’s been the life of the party for eight-out-nine years the Senior Prom has been in existence.

Tarza is a whirlwind of energy. She dances to every song and even manages to teach other attendees how to limbo, twist, waltz or swing.

“I believe we should all just dance, dance, dance,” said Freda Tarza, 76, of Warrenton. “Don’t wait for the golden years to arrive, get out there and enjoy the golden moment. The time to have fun is now.”

Between dances Tarza requested an anchor tattoo painted on her arm to honor the military from Sandy’s Face Painting, a local business that annually supports the prom.

“See my anchor with the flowers? It honors the Navy and all the people serving in the military,” said Tarza. “You have to live your life and have fun.”

Event volunteers and local businesses all joined together for a festive afternoon. The event offered food, a photo booth, live DJ, face-painting and door prizes. The prom concluded with the selection of a king and queen of the prom.

In the grand finale Jack Clatterbuck, 73, of Unionville and Bess Lucking, 91, of Sperryville were crowned king and queen of the 2017 Senior Prom respectively.

The queen nearly missed her own selection.

“Funny thing is I was ready to leave a little early to get home and feed my two cocker spaniels Rocko and Cloe,” said Lucking with a wide smile. “I’ve come every year and I always have a good time. I was completely surprised when I was selected as the queen.”

The king was also elated to preside over an event that has brought so much joy to area seniors.

“It’s a wonderful prom… it always is. I’ve been attending for the last four years,” said Clatterbuck proudly sporting his newly earned crown. “I hope they keep this event going—it’s a great experience and so much fun for all the senior citizens in our area.”

Each year the Senior Prom has gained popularity among senior citizens in the five-county area. The dance organized by Aging Together is supported by families, individuals, non-profits and businesses. The event is also a labor of love for the Culpeper Town Police and volunteers from all the area’s senior groups including a few from neighboring Orange, Rappahannock, Madison and Fauquier Counties.

“Another great Senior Prom—it’s our ninth! Special thanks to our fantastic committee led by Mary Ellen Clark of Hope in Home Care. Because of our generous sponsors and enthusiastic volunteers, over 100 seniors danced, ate, listened to music and had a fun time at Culpeper Christian School.  We loved the enthusiasm of our seniors who did the limbo, electric slide and chicken dance with great gusto. Age is just a number”

One of the largest groups in attendance was the Silver Club, a Culpeper Parks and Recreation sponsored program.  The group had four tables for its members. Among the group were at least five former kings and queens of the prom in past years.

“We will be back next year,” said club member Pat Kosalinski, of Culpeper.

Most attendees carpooled to the event with friends and there were many opportunities to meet other people from senior-oriented groups and clubs.

“This is the fourth time I’ve attended the senior prom. I love dancing and spending time with my friends,” said Jackie Porter, of Woodville. “I’m here with my oldest son Jeff today and we’ve had so much fun.”

As the final songs emanated trough the gym a familiar lady in a blue dress took a few minutes to teach two young volunteers how to swing dance.

“I have to teach these young fellas how to do the swing,” said Tarza. “Their future dates will thank me.”