More than 100 years later, Moonhill Schoolhouse still a community hub

Community members enjoy a dance at Moonhill Schoolhouse.
Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Sometimes, bringing a community together means going back to basics. Trenia Sanford, manager and director of the Moonhill Schoolhouse, said a good, old-fashioned dance can do just the trick.

The 1913 school house, which has been a community center since 1987, hosts a community dance on the last Saturday of each month, Sanford explained. The next dance is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at the schoolhouse, 51710 Elk River Road.

“We start with group dances for those that are a little bit leery of dancing,” she said. “We do things like the Virginia Wheel and the Irish Star, and we get everybody moving and laughing.”

She emphasized that something as simple as coming together to dance and have fun can be a breath of fresh air in today’s world.

“We have to separate people from their remotes and remember what a joy it is to dance and be with fellow humans,” Sanford said.

She explained that the Moonhill Schoolhouse is a place for community engagement and enrichment. Beyond the monthly dances, the space also holds yoga classes, private events, and teen dances for area high schools.

“Our mission has a lot to do with community, and it always has,” Sanford said. “It’s where the agricultural people and families celebrated everything from weddings to bridal showers to christenings to funerals.”

If you go

What: Community Dance

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 30

Where: Moonhill Schoolhouse, 51710 Elk River Rd

She added that the schoolhouse was a place people would go to celebrate throughout the last 109 years. She said they have a renewed interest in pushing their dances, as younger folks today don’t have as much of a chance to learn it.

“We’re especially trying to reach out to young people, because dance is something that our culture has lost in the 20th and 21st centuries,” Sanford said, “It seems important to me that if you go to a school dance or wedding, you know what to do.”

“There’s very few places you get that kind of joy, where groups of people can do things together,” she added.

People of all ages are welcome, and water and soda will be provided. Going to the dance is free, but Sanford said donations are encouraged.

She emphasized that particularly with the difficulties of isolation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial for communities and neighbors to have a place to gather.

“I think the community has really taken a hit in the last two years, and I think people should know their neighbors,” Sanford said.

“This 1913 schoolhouse, it’s one of the last community centers actually functioning pretty often around the county. It’s a jewel,” Sanford said. “Like all jewels and communities, you have to use it or lose it.”

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