Clay Today

July 29, 2010

The Friday Night Dance Club, Orange Park, Fla.

By Christina Leach Phillips, Correspondent

ORANGEPARK— On a recent Friday night at the Orange Park Lions Club, a band played the song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” as several couples danced  to the music and others ate a meal on cloth-covered tables with candles and talked with friends.

The Lions Club at423 McIntosh Avenueis the meeting place of the Friday Night Dance Club, a group of adults who meet every Friday from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. to dance and socialize.

Paul Napierala, the newly-elected President of the club, said they have about seven bands that play for the dances. “They play 50’s type music and throw in Jimmy Buffet and throw in some line dancing and ‘New York,New York’ and that kind of stuff,” he said.

“There are the slow dances and the fast dances, but in between, you’ll see some cha-chas and you’ll see some rumbas.” 

He said some bands also play polkas. “Last week they did ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ and they did ‘The Chicken Dance’ too.”

Napierala said the club is looking for new members who like to dance. “I’m sure there are a lot of people in the area who just don’t know about us, so we are trying to get the word out.”

He said it is not necessary to be a “dancer dancer” to attend. “There are a few people who can do ball room type stuff, but you don’t have to do that.  If you just sort of like to get out there and move around a little bit, that’s fine,” he said.

On a table by the front door of the club, there was a list of members’ birthdays, anniversaries, and upcoming bands. There was also a sympathy card that was signed by those attending for a member’s mother who had died.

“It’s a friendly, family atmosphere – people know your name,” said Maria Nicholson who, along with her husband, Nick, sold tickets at the front door.  The Nicholsons said they used to belong to a dance club for singles, but when they got married several years ago, they joined the Friday Night Dance Club, which includes both singles and couples. 

Bill and Linda Fonferek recently moved back to theJacksonvillearea to be near family after Bill retired from his job inAtlanta.  They asked their realtor, Joy Campbell, about social activities in theOrangeParkarea, and she suggested they go to the Friday Night Dance Club, where she is a member.

“It just turned out to be a very nice bunch of folks – very friendly – and it was a fun time and something to do every weekend,” said Fonferek. “We were pleasantly surprised with it and became members right away.”

There seemed to be a consensus among those attending that it is a good place to make friends.

“It’s such a nice, friendly atmosphere and a good, good group,” said Ruth Long, former President of the club.

Deanna Swanson said she likes camaraderie at the Friday Night Dance Club.  “They become your friends,” she said.

The Friday Night Dance Club, which celebrated its sixth anniversary in July, was started in 2004 by a group of 38 friends who established what they said would be “a nice, friendly, trouble-free and smoke-free place to dance,” according to the group’s “History of a Volunteer Dance Club.”

The club experienced waning membership in its first year, after starting with 90 dancers then going to a low of 27 in attendance, but the group has prevailed with an average of 40 to 80 people each week, according to Napierala. 

The club depends on its members to help out. Each Friday, volunteers decorate the hall, set up the kitchen, and clean up afterward. Others donate items for door prizes.

“We have people bring in something to eat, and the club prepares a meat dish, soft drinks, and coffee.  It’s not a dinner by any means, but it’s heavy hors d’oeuvres, and you’ve got music for three hours,” said Napierala.

It costs $15 per person to become a member of the Friday Night Dance Club, which includes the first night’s admission, but it is not necessary to join the club to attend the dances.  The cost to attend a weekly dance is $7 for members and $9 for non-members, which includes food and non-alcoholic drinks. Dress is “resort casual.”

“It’s the best deal around,” said Tom Znidar, who has been a member of the club for five years.

The Fonfereks are now active members of the Friday Night Dance Club since joining two months ago.  Linda volunteers in the kitchen, and Bill has set up the club’s website.

Linda said they have made many friends through the club in the short time they have been here. 

“The people – they’re so warm and friendly – they totally embraced us like family,” she said.

For more information on the Friday Night Dance Club, contact Paul Napierala at 904-269-1757, email at or go online to: