Andy Howard in Clogging Hall of Fame

Friends and family are always thrilled when hometown folks do well.

Young people get their start here in LaBelle, get a good foundation, then go off and make their mark in the world, sharing the good things they learned here.

Pictured from right: Kim Dykes, Bobby Howard, Andy, Annie Ruth Howard and Judy Stockman. (Submitted photo)

Pictured from right: Kim Dykes, Bobby Howard, Andy, Annie Ruth Howard and Judy Stockman. (Submitted photo)

Prime example: LaBelle’s own Andy Howard was selected to be inducted into the 2015 Florida Clogging Hall of Fame. The announcement came September 12 at the Florida State Clogging Convention. The following information from letters from several of his friends – Pat Bedingfield, Dalita Peeler and Erin Hunter – helped him toward this honor, but the talent and enthusiasm for dance that inspires him is all Andy’s.

Andy was taught clogging by Pat Bedingfield as a young boy, and was a member of the Country Rhythm Cloggers for quite a few years. From there he joined the Sidekick Cloggers, then became an instructor at the LaBelle Program Center. When he went off to college, his teenagers joined the Country Rhythm Cloggers.

Andy’s roots are in this traditional American clogging dance form. He carries on traditions that his old instructors taught him, respects the dance form’s history, but adds his own innovative, creativity and knack for choreography.

Like the artist he is, Andy is anxious to share his talent and the sheer joy of this art form with the rest of the world.

At the University of Florida he wrote his masters thesis on the history of clogging, interviewing many cloggers of the past and present and he even did a performance piece.

He taught at many studios while at UF and shared his love of clogging. He is an unselfish and giving instructor, he gives opportunities to many not affiliated with his clogging team.

Andy’s own American Racket dance team is a solid group of Florida dancers comprised of dancers from all over the United States. Through his dance team, he has become even more respected in the clogging world, as well as in the performing arts arena as a whole. The International Council of Organizations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts festivals American Racket attends are comprised of dance groups from all over the world representing their country. American Racket serves as ambassadors and presents traditional American Clogging to audiences from school children to big tops with thousands of people. American Racket has traveled to Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada and Korea, as well as around the United States. In addition to opening for world famous artists, the troupe has danced at events at SeaWorld, Hard Rock Casino, Orlando Fringe Festival, the University of Florida’s Gator Growl – to name a few and competed at the state and national level, with many grand champion wins.

He researched, and has recruited help and support to re-institute a Florida Competition, which includes a workshop to include others who want to attend but not compete. He has activities planned for non-dancers as well so the whole family can come. He is trying to restore that “it’s a family affair” feeling and bringing our clogging family all together to celebrate and do what we love the most – clog! He has even gone as far as to locate every single team in the state of Florida so he can share their names with people who might be looking in that area.

He is gifted and blessed with an incredible talent that he not afraid to share with the world. He’s touched many lives and spreads the joy of clogging and the beauty of the clogging family to people everywhere.

Andy’s original instructor, mentor and fan, Pat Bedingfield, said, “I am so proud of Andy and all of his accomplishments and the man he has become.”

The Caloosa Belle is published every Thursday.

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