After the closure of the Charlotte Eagle last year, Southern Country Charlotte (SCC), the Queen City’s LGBT Country Western dancing group, was left without a home. As they prepare for their premiere annual event, Queen City Stomp, the group’s leadership says positive side effects have come out of the Eagle’s closing.

“It shook us up a bit,” says Thomas Healy, SCC president. “We had to take a step back and once the initial shock wore off we were able to rally the membership and we’ve gotten good representation when we do club nights at other locations.”

When SCC isn’t gearing up for Queen City Stomp, which takes place April 16-18 at the Sheraton Charlotte Airport, the group is hosting weekly dance lessons and occasional club nights where both members and the public are invited to join in on the fun and fellowship. Since the Eagle’s closing, SCC has held their weekly lessons at Petra’s Piano Bar in Plaza-Midwood and hosted club nights at Hartigan’s, the Closet and the Rainbow Inn. They’ve also reached out across the region.

“Leading up to the event this year, we’re being a bit more aggressive in marketing,” Healy says. “Not just to local clubs, but we’ve also sent representatives to Atlanta and Hickory. We’ve got posters going to people in California and Texas. We’ve got lots of out-of-state representation.”

Atlanta’s Southern Line will attend and perform at this year’s Stomp.

The annual event serves as both a social gathering and community fundraiser. Since SCC’s inception in 1991, the group has raised and contributed more than $150,000 for area non-profits. Last year, proceeds benefited the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte and Time Out Youth. Both those groups as well as One Voice Chorus will be the beneficiary of Stomp’s proceeds this year.

SCC Vice President Chris Gray says SCC’s supportive fellowship and the community- building inherit in SCC’s mission sealed the deal when he decided to get involved. He and his partner had just moved to Charlotte and ventured out to the Eagle for a bit of fun on a Wednesday night.

“The atmosphere of Southern Country was so welcoming,” Gray says. “They made us feel real comfortable. Southern Country doesn’t turn anyone away and we go out of our way to help people and organizations.”

Healy says the volunteerism not only attracted him to SCC but also inspired him to get more involved. “Once I was a member, I saw the good work being done outside of just dancing — what we’ve done to support other organizations throughout the year,” he says. “I felt it was a good way to give back to the community as a whole, not just the gay and lesbian community but the greater Charlotte community.”

Healy says SCC has really allowed him to “see the city at its best.” : :

This year’s Queen City Stomp kicks off with a Friday night welcome cocktail hosted by SCC’s board. The group will also host a Friday night dance. On Saturday, beginning, intermediate and advanced dancers alike are invited to learn more about Country Western dancing in lessons offered 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Instructors this year include Don Curran, Pepper Sharpe, Scott Schrank, Scott Cooper and Dawn Rinkus. Curran is the current director of dance for the International Association of Gay/Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs.

On Saturday evening, Stomp’s premier Cattle Call Ball kicks off at 9 p.m. in the Sheraton Charlotte Airport’s ballroom. Sunday’s schedule includes more lessons, a BBQ lunch and “dance swap” from 1 p.m.-4 p.m.

Registration is available online at Full weekend passes cost $70. Other registration options, including ala carte choices, are available. Admission to Saturday’s Cattle Call Ball is $15.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.