Al Ford loves to dance.
The 72-year-old Georgetown resident said he started dancing at high school dances when he was 13 or 14 and by the time he graduated, he was known as the best dancer in his senior class.
“I tied for first place in a [‘Showtime at the] Apollo’-type amateur night,” he said. “I got $25 for winning the dance contest – the prize was $50 but I had to split it with the other winner.”
Those dance moves can be seen almost nightly between games and during halftimes each year at the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach.
Ford has attended the tournament that takes place annually in December for at least 10 years. He volunteers each year selling raffle tickets to raise money for scholarships.
“Whenever they played any old-school, I would dance in the stands or around [the basketball court],” he said, adding that he always wears a suit and tie to the games. “I like to look nice.”
Chad Smith, who serves on the Beach Ball Classic executive committee, said he saw how Ford’s dancing got the crowd going.
“He used to just dance around the sides of the court … but only the people in that area could see him,” Smith said. “One night we didn’t have anyone [entertaining] for halftime, so I asked him to go out on the floor.”
Since then, Ford has showed off his dance moves, which include James Brown-style footwork, the moonwalk, spins and his signature “pull-up” move where he squats low and pulls himself up by the back of his jacket.
“I got that from Jackie Wilson,” he said.
Ford grew up in Georgetown and moved to New York to attend college. He and his now ex-wife moved to Moncks Corner in 1988 where they owned a McDonald’s franchise until his mother got sick and he moved back to Georgetown.
In Georgetown he managed a Bojangles’ Famous Chicken and Biscuits – earning him the nicknames “Mr. Bojangles” and “Chicken Man.”
Ford retired and has worked refereeing basketball games since 1990, and in 2003 began refereeing volleyball games and umpiring softball games. Ford even refereed some of the games at Beach Ball Classic in the past, Smith said.
Smith said he can tell that seeing Ford dance is a highlight for many of those who attend the tournament.
“Everybody looks forward, I think, to seeing Mr. Bojangles do his dance,” Smith said.
Gina Burch said she’s seen Ford dancing at Beach Ball Classic for the seven years she’s brought her son to the tournament.
“He is here every year and dressed [in a suit and tie],” she said. “It’s amazing because he has a hard time walking, but he is a fantastic dancer.”
When the disc jockey plays “I Got You (I Feel Good),” eyes go to the middle of the court as onlookers smile, clap and cheer him on.
“It feels great when they give you applause and stuff,” he said. “Some folks come up to me and say, ‘Every time I come here I look forward to seeing you dance.’ ”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.