|Sharon Dobbie has moved her weekly line dancing classes to the Upper Village Hall|
during renovations of Veterans Memorial Hall downtown.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- While the town works to renovate Veterans Memorial Hall, several recreation department programs have found a temporary new home at the recently updated Upper Village Hall.
Last week, several groups began meeting at the Upper Village Hall on East Derry Road — including several seniors fitness groups, a tai chi class and two line dancing groups, said Derry Parks and Recreation Director Eric Bodenrader.
On Friday, nearly 40 of Sharon Dobbie’s intermediate line dancers filled the Upper Village Hall’s main room for their first class in the four weeks since Veterans Hall renovations began.
“It’s a nice open space for us with smooth floors we can slide on,” said Dobbie, of Hampstead, on Friday. “That’s all we need: a big open space and a plug.”
And dedicated members like Phyllis Howard of Derry say they hate to go without the weekly class, even just for four weeks.
“It’s awful without it because it’s great to get out and see other people, and it’s great exercise,” said Howard, who has been participating in the town-sponsored group for almost 18 years.
Howard has lived in Derry for more than 30 years, but said she was surprised to see how much work had been done on the building Friday.
“I think it’s wonderful what they’ve done, considering that the building was built so long ago,” she said. “I would hope to have dances here and maybe some dinners in the future.”
Councilor David Milz, a member of the East Derry Village Improvement Society, said he hopes that getting more people through the hall’s doors will help get out the word on the building’s improvements.
“I think it’s going to give the seniors, who have a great network here in town, the opportunity to spread the word that this is a great place to have a function,” he said. “We’re letting people get in there and say, Oh my gosh. Everybody says that it doesn’t look that good on the outside yet, but the inside is stunning.”
The East Derry group has been working to renovate the hall over the past year, after purchasing the former town hall from the town for $1, Milz said.
In that time, Milz said, the group has redone the hall’s flooring, repainted the interior walls, installed a new fire alarm system and updated the plumbing. Up next, he said are plans for a sprinkler system.
And Milz said community interest is already pouring in.
So far several groups have rented the space for onetime events, he said. A local children’s theater group holds regular rehearsals in the space and a paranormal investigation company rents the space for monthly presentations.
And while town recreation programs have only temporarily shifted to the Upper Village Hall, Bodenraeder said the future could bring more collaboration between the two groups.
“Right now it’s a short-term thing, but the possibilities are out there,” he said.