Peanut City Cloggers take the national stage by storm

Published 3:09 pm Friday, December 8, 2023

The Peanut City Cloggers are celebrating the results of their hard-earned work. The group recently wrapped up two American Clogging Hall of Fame National Competitions, one held on Oct. 20 through 21 in Sevierville, Tennessee, and one on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Denton, North Carolina. 

The group saw much success in their work: In Tennessee, PCC saw three 1st place winnings, three 2nd place winnings and one third place win. Elementary cloggers won 1st place in both Running Set and Country Hoedown categories while winning 2nd place in the Open Hoedown category. Junior cloggers saw one 1st place win in the Running Set category with two 2nd place wins in the RunningSet Precision and Open Hoedown categories. Young Adult cloggers placed third in the Southern Appalachian category. 

North Carolina’s competition saw even greater heights for the group, with 1st Place awards throughout their categories. Elementary cloggers saw 1st place go to all three Open, Country and Running Set Hoedowns. 

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Seniors cloggers placed first and Grand Champion in six categories of Open, Country and Running Set Hoedowns and Running Set Precision, Traditional Line/Overall Traditional Team and Traditional Line Formations. Young Adult cloggers saw 1st Place/Grand Champion in the Southern Appalachian category with Adult cloggers winning 1st place in the Traditional Line category. The October competition ended their 2023 season with the November’s starting off the 2024 season.

The Cloggers competed against various teams from Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. Following the competitions, Peanut City Cloggers Managing Director Judith Lester talked about the work that the dancers go through to participate in the contests.

“Each team is different and for us. We practice once a week and we practice at the Bethlehem Ruritan Club. They give us a place that we can practice. On Thursday nights, we practice all of our age groups on Thursday. So we break up our time slot into Elementary practice and Senior practice,” Lester said. “Each group gets about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes of practice a week, which is not a lot of time to practice the number of routines that we do. So we work really hard to prepare in the short amount of time that we actually have.” 

Lester says that new routines might call for some extra practice due to the amount of work that goes into learning new routines. She further detailed the ways that the dancers prepare for the competitions.

“The dancers are moving in formations and moving in the figures that make up the routines. So each category, they have specific rules that you have to meet in order to be under that category,” Lester said. “There’s different types of figures, there’s different types of movements. You have multiple people that you are trying to coordinate and work together as a unit. And getting that togetherness takes a lot of work and a lot of practice.”

The festivities didn’t stop there as PCC celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday, November 4. Lester reflected on the group’s activities to celebrate the milestone.

“In order to celebrate that we hosted what we called a Barn Dance. Or you could define it as an Open Dance. And we had that Khedive Shrine Center in Chesapeake and we invited all kinds of people and it was open to the public and it was also kind of a team fundraiser event,” Lester said. “So we invited people from other teams and friends that we have made along the way and tried to get the word out to have anyone that was interested that wanted to attend could attend.”

Lester also described the celebration as having big circle dances, cakewalks, and items up for silent auction.

“We just had a really good time,” Lester said. “We enjoyed the company of those that came out to support us and we had a lot of fun. I don’t think I left the dance floor!”

Another key aspect of PCC is its tagline: “We’re peanut born, we’re peanut bred and when we die, we’re peanut dead!” Lester talked about the humorous tagline and how it captures the spirit of the group.

“Years back and I don’t honestly remember how long back, but we had a dancer on the team who had a parent that was very active and very supportive. And she came up with it. I don’t know where she pulled it from, but she came up with it and it’s kind of been the mantra of the team ever since. We’ve kept it and it’s almost become one of the things that we are known for,” Lester said.

Reflecting on their self-proclaimed “chant,” Lester says that she and the dancers huddle before going out to compete and chant their mantra. She says that people now expect it from them during their competitions.

“We’ve actually gone to a couple of workshops and upon arrival, they’re like ‘Oh, you guys have that chant! Will you do it for us?’” she reflected humorously.

Lester also expressed what she hopes cloggers will take away from their day-to-day activities, reflecting on her own early clogging days.

“All of us that are on the board, we grew up through clogging and it means a lot to us. The experiences and the memories that we have being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself and being a part of a wonderful community, and the memories that we have growing up in our environment within the clogging world are things that we want to give others,” Lester said. “We want new generations to be able to have their own memories clogging gave them and their own experiences that clogging gave them. As instructors or coaches, you’re teaching to the person as far as structure, efforts, competitions, drive, desire to do something that you couldn’t do before. But from the other standpoint, we also want to encourage them personally and let them know that they are a part of something that we want to make special for them.”

Finally, Lester shared her appreciate for the Bethlehem Ruritan Club.

“We are just so thankful to the Bethlehem Ruritan Club for giving us, basically putting a roof over our heads to give us a place to practice,” Lester said. “ … It would be very difficult to meet on a regular basis if we did not have a location to do so and they have provided us a location for well over 20 plus years.”

Beginner clogging lessons will start back up on Feb. 1, 2024. For more information, go to peanutcitycloggers.com.

Individual awards were also given out: In Tennessee, Lillie Short was named as an ACHF Junior All-American Team member and awarded the Junior All-American Team jacket. 

Olivia Morris was named ACHF All-American Team member and awarded the All-American Team jacket. 

Likewise, Peanut City Cloggers Managing Director Judi Lester won Traditional Caller for the Senior-Adult Age group.

In North Carolina, Best Caller went to Lillie Short. 

Traditional (Premier Solos) — Various Age Divisions went to Jayce Holleman for 1st Place, Ella Shvets for 1st Place/Premier Grand Champion, Annabell Shvets for 1st Place and Aubrey Canady for 2nd Place. 

Traditional Solos — Various Age Divisions went to Lauren Winslow for 1st Place/Grand Champion, Jeylah Finch for 1st Place, Madison Belch for 2nd Place and Sara Terrillion for 3rd Place. A cappella Solos went to Lauren Winslow for 1st Place with Madison Belch for 2nd Place. 

Flatfoot Solos — Various Age Divisions went to Madison Belch for 1st Place/Grand Champion, Lillie Short for 1st Place, Jeylah Finch for 2nd Place and Olivia Morris for 3rd Place.

Lastly, Contemporary Solos — Various Age Divisions went to Madison Belch for 1st Place and Jeylah Finch for 2nd Place.