The halls of Garden Plaza of Greenbriar Cove in Ooltewah, Tennessee, echoed with the iconic sounds of the ’50s throughout the afternoon on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Residents had an extra spring in their step all day, as they anxiously awaited the evening’s sock hop.
As the 7:30 p.m. start time drew near, excitement grew among the eager guests waiting in line for the doors to open. With attendees giggling and chatting like teenagers, the colorful queue, littered with poodle skirts, ponytails, scarves, penny loafers, saddle oxfords, rolled-up blue jeans and leather jackets, was in place by 7 p.m. Organizers ended up opening the doors early because the residents and their guests were ready to kick up their heels and dance!
As residents stepped into the room, they were transported back to yesteryear, with decorations that included vinyl records, ’50s backdrops and lots of balloons. The nostalgic atmosphere was completed by the familiar strains of ’50s hits being spun by a DJ, ushering back memories of the days of Elvis, Chuck Berry, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
The community’s Bistro was transformed into a classic diner, where residents enjoyed Coke from glass bottles and root beer floats. Menus for the evening were designed like menus from the ’50s, and guests dined on burgers, French fries and hot apple pie.
“We wanted to organize a sock hop because we have such an active group of residents, who love to dance,” explained Sierra Cannon, sales director at the community. “Most of them were teenagers during the ’50s, and we wanted to take them back in time and remind them of some of the best memories they have. It was one of the best events we’ve ever done. A lot of our staff got involved, dress up and danced with our residents. We danced for an hour and a half straight!””
In addition to residents, family members and community guests joined in the festivities. As everyone danced, laughed and ate, the room was so packed that people were standing outside the doors, watching.
“We did the Hand Jive, the Stroll, the Twist and even had a hula-hoop contest,” said Cannon. “They certainly taught me some moves. One of our residents, Gene Fowler, dressed up as Elvis and actually dyed his hair black for the event. He taught me how to move my feet and twirl; he made sure to teach all the ladies how!”
Cannon said that her favorite memory from the evening is that Fowler surprised everyone – including his wife – by dressing up as Elvis. His wife, Easter, was all smiles throughout the night, watching with pride as Fowler showed off his expert dance moves and taught others how to dance.
Maintenance director Erik Tinkham also dressed as Elvis and spent the night on the dance floor.
“It was so much fun watching all of the staff and residents have such a great time together,” said Cannon. “It was particularly funny watching some of the bad dancers, too – myself included!”
There really was something for everyone.
“The sock hop was a huge success,” said Cannon. “It was so fun to see residents who are quieter or more introverted step out of their comfort zones and dance and have big smiles on their faces.”
The sock hop was so well received that Greenbriar Cove is already planning next year’s event. Residents are still talking about it and enjoyed it so much that they asked staff to keep the music going. So, Greenbriar Cove is still playing ’50s music. And residents are already suggesting ideas for next year’s sock hop, including learning dances ahead of time, like line dances and ballroom dances.
Until then, residents can look forward to Valentine’s Day, when Greenbriar will hold its next dance: an Elvis-themed Jailhouse Rock Dance Party.
“We already have life-size Elvis stand-ups and some fun things planned,” hinted Cannon.
“Our entire team worked together on this one,” explained Cannon. “The best thing about the event was the joy and laughter that filled the room. I loved being able to see families watch their parents completely come alive and have a great time. At the end of the day, I feel such joy to be a part of our residents’ lives. Our leadership team and our staff feel mutually blessed that we get to serve such wonderful people every day.”