Sharing memories

Dorothy (Simpkins) Engel (left) talks to Mavis Manor at Club Prior’s “Reminisce Day,” in which residents shared memories and photographs of the old Prior Lake. In the background, Leroy Farrell (left) and Albert Feldman, both raised in Credit River Township, look at photos while recalling their lifelong friendship.

With a Nintendo Wii, a large flat-screen TV and dance lessons on shiny hardwood floors left over from when the space housed a city-run dance studio, Club Prior has spent the last five years putting the “activity” in “older adult activity center.”

In fact, at Club Prior, “senior” is practically a dirty word. The city’s — ahem — older adult recreation center, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this coming week, was always marketed as the antidote to the typical senior center.

After all, who wants to say they hang out at a senior center when they can instead claim to frequent the most popular club in town?

To commemorate five years, Club Prior will host a party and open house — with live music, a historical photo display and refreshments — from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 16. The center is at 16210 Eagle Creek Ave., inside the Prior Lake Library building.

Demographically, the city was changing in the years leading up to January 2008, when Club Prior opened. A senior housing boom resulted in three senior living facilities opening here in one year alone. One of those buildings, Lakefront Plaza, is just steps from Club Prior’s doors.

The city spent nearly $70,000 to update the space formerly leased to Premiere Dance Academy, a public-private partnership that is now fully privatized. With the hiring of Activity Programmer Debbie Carlberg, Club Prior began offering everything from free computer help to field trips to Latin dance nights.

The 6,000-square-foot center has since served as a place where adults can meet new friends, plan field trips, get information on health and wellness, do yoga or Tai Chi, listen to live music, play cards or just chat over coffee. Club Prior has hosted book clubs, health fairs, exercise classes, historical talks and more.

Over the last five years, Club Prior has successfully partnered with the River Valley YMCA, Prior Lake-Savage Area Community Education and senior-living facilities such as McKenna Crossing and Keystone Communities to come up with activities for residents ages 50 and up. Carlberg has been a visible presence in the community, not just at Club Prior but at a variety of city functions.

The biggest Club Prior events, though, have been “First Thursdays Danceteria” nights, which have drawn hundreds of people (of all ages) from throughout the metro area for free group dance lessons in the presence of live bands. One of our editor’s favorite Prior Lake memories in the last 10 years is seeing locals learn the rumba and the cha-cha from Latin dance instructors Rene Thompson and Ann Dolan last October while Salsa del Soul heated up the room with their live show.

Club Prior even served for a time as an after-school meeting place for teenagers on certain days — a practice that seems to have been abandoned but should be reconsidered in some form. We think there’s an opportunity for Club Prior and local schools to foster relationships between generations, encouraging young people to respect their elders and developing an interest in learning about our community’s history.

In addition to the upcoming five-year celebration, Club Prior is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (952) 447-9783.

Editorials are among the opinion and commentary pieces appearing regularly in this newspaper. Unless otherwise noted, all editorials that appear in this spot are written by the editor of the Prior Lake American.