Annual shagging contest set for NC 4th of July celebration

Registration is still open for annual shag contest in Oak Island Friday

OAK ISLAND, N.C. (WECT) - It’s one of the highlights of the annual N.C. 4th of July Festival Beach Day. The annual shag contest is set for Friday, July 1 in Oak Island.

“Anyone can enter except shag dance instructors and professional shag dancers,” said John Hutton, President of the Society of Brunswick Shaggers.

There are currently over 12 couples signed up to compete in the dance-off, but Hutton says shaggers can still register right up until the time the competition starts at 7 p.m. Friday.

Hutton says most of the contestants are married couples who have been dancing together for years, so the competition is stiff. He and his wife, who have been shagging for over 35 years, will not compete this year since John is still recovering from a recent leg surgery. He says shagging is how a lot of couples meet.

“Every lady likes to be sported around. Every man likes to have a nice lady on his arm. It’s a great couple’s thing,” Hutton says.

It’s all in the foot work with men, traditionally, taking the lead. They decide when to turn -- when to spin their partners.

There are over 100 different shag clubs in the southeast, which is where shag was born. There is debate about where shagging originated, though.

“That depends on where you live,” says Hutton.

Shagging became very popular in Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Myrtle Beach in the 1940′s and 50′s during segregation. There are many historical accounts, however, that say the fancy foot moves originated in the African American community in the 20′s and 30′s.

“One of the most famous shaggers of all came out of Carolina Beach -- a man by the name of Chicken Hicks -- a great guy who had his own steps and his own dance moves. And actually he had picked up some of them over in Seabreeze which was a predominately black area of New Hanover County back in the late 50′s and early 60′s,” he says.

One thing is for sure -- once you get in the groove, shagging gets in your blood and you’re convinced you’re the best at it.

That’s why shagging contests are so popular. But Hutton says real shaggers know its really about having fun.

“They’ll always be somebody better and they’ll always be somebody worse,” he said. “It’s all about having a good time.”

The first place winner in the contest on Friday wins $100. Second place wins $50, and third place takes home $25.

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Frances Weller

Frances Weller

Frances Weller is a native of Wilmington, NC. She is the daughter of Katherine Weller and the late Fritz Weller. She is a product of the New Hanover County School system, graduating from John T. Hoggard High School. She graduated in 1981 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she majored in speech communication.