Walking down the steps of Tim and Mickey Whaley's garage, a person likely will hear taps clacking against a wood floor.
"We have the split tap on the front of our shoes, so we make a little more noise," said Tim Whaley of Lake Milton, instructor and director of Fun Time Cloggers. "It was invented by Marty Stevens of Stevens Stompers in Mercer, Pa."
This allows the members to perform what's known as double-tap clogging.
Tribune Chronicle / Nancilynn Gatta
Members of the Fun Time Cloggers form a circle as they dance to the song “Cotton-Eyed Joe” at a recent gathering at Tim and Mickey Whaley’s Lake Milton home.
Clogging is a form of folk dance in which people dance on wooden floors and strike their toe or heel on the downbeat of music to make a percussive sound. It is associated with square dancing, especially in the southern states, where it is a popular social dance. The roots of the dance come from Irish, Scots-Irish fiddle music with German and Cherokee step dances and African rhythms.
Comparing what they do tap dancing, Whaley said, "You (tap dancers) do shuffle-ball change. We do double-step rock step. Basically, the same movement as the tappers' shuffle."
He also mentioned that cloggers usually start their movements on their left foot, while tap dancers start with their right foot.
Following his parents' enthusiasm for square dancing became a life-changing experience for Whaley. While attending Western square dance classes, he met Mickey, his future wife and dance partner.
The Whaleys decided to learn clogging and studied in the Salem area with Raymond Warner of County Line Cloggers.
"After about three years with Raymond, we were building a new house here (Lake Milton),'' Whaley said. "He is an hour away and I thought, 'Let's start lessons here.' We started with one class of six people and each year it grew and grew.''
In reaction to the growing interest, he started Fun Time Cloggers, a non-competitive dance club, which recently celebrated 25 years of existence. Mickey acts as clog dance choreographer and runs sound when the club performs clogging demos.
Like Whaley, Fun Time Clogger members Walter Romito, Jack Smallridge and Mary Grate of Lordstown were also square dancers before they were cloggers.
For Smallridge, clogging continues a family tradition.
"I can remember as a kid growing up in West Virginia, families used to get together and play music at everybody's homes and they would dance a flatfoot clogging to keep time with the music, not double toe like this," Smallridge said. "I remember my mom and dad doing it. I guess that's how I got started. When I left home, I wanted to dance."
Romito said that being Italian, square dancing was not a family tradition. He and a friend were invited to go square dancing in the early 1970s, and that piqued his interest.
A lot of former square dancers have joined Fun Time Cloggers because of their exposure to the dance form during live demos throughout the area as well as county fairs in Summit, Portage, Trumbull and Columbiana and the Canfield and Ohio State fairs.
"We'd go to square dancing, and intermission would come along and we'd clog," Whaley said. "People would ask what that is all about. Pretty soon we were picking up square dancers as well as other people."
Grate began Western square dance classes and brought her daughter, a second-grader, along with her during the seven months of classes. Her daughter saw other children square dancing and loved it.
"The Fun Time Cloggers came and did a demo and brought some of the kids," Grate said. "My daughter said, 'I want to do that.' I brought her here thinking she would take lessons, but when I saw everybody dancing - ladies from square dancing - I wanted to try it. That was 20 years ago."
Smallridge and Bonnie Scott of Lordstown have been with Fun Time Cloggers the longest. Each has participated for more than 20 years.
"It's exercise for the day," Scott said when asked why she participates. "Everybody's fun. I'm probably a ham to get out and dance."
She recalled one of her early performances.
"When I first started, I was so scared," Scott said. "We went to this nursing home and we yell (during a dance). I was in front of this guy in a wheelchair and all of a sudden he clapped with us. The nurses came over and said he had been there three months and had not moved. He was so excited. So I thought, 'I'm doing good.'"
Liz Best is the most recent addition to Fun Time Cloggers. She has been with the club for almost two years, and her past experience is in tap dance.
"I know Diane (Wilke, a member of the Fun Time Cloggers) and they were clogging at the Trumbull County Fair," Best said. "I watched them, and I saw how old everybody was, and I thought, 'I could do that.' So I came to beginner's class."
The club usually has three appearances a month ranging from fairs to nursing homes. Typically, they perform 18 different numbers averaging two to three minutes. Their next performance is on Oct. 21 as part of Mineral Ridge Spirit Week. They will perform five or six songs on a moving dance floor on a float.