‘When I think of College Station, I think of Hurricane Harry’s’

Memories of the dance hall in the wake of its relocation
Couples dancing in the lights of the Hurricane Harrys dance floor. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)
Couples dancing in the lights of the Hurricane Harry’s dance floor. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)
Photo by Adriano Espinosa

Just half an hour after opening, Hurricane Harry’s is buzzing with loyal patrons. Friday nights typically fill up around 11 p.m., but already every pool table is surrounded, groups of friends laugh on the sides, men in Stetsons chat with women in boots, bartenders swiftly mix orders and couples young and old swing each other around well-worn dance floors.

Affectionately known as “Harry’s,” the venue has served Texas A&M and the College Station community as a country western dance hall since opening 32 years ago, watching apartment buildings and franchises spring up around it to replace houses and fields. 

Last week, Culpepper Realty announced the dance hall and nearby businesses will have to shut down and relocate by March 2025. The announcement comes after a decade of statements telling owners their businesses would be unaffected by plans for a new retail development in the area.

But Harry’s Friday night patrons aren’t there to mourn. They’re there to celebrate accomplishments, friendships and milestones; they’re there to unwind and breathe in the atmosphere; they’re there to revisit old moments and live new ones. They dance, laugh, flirt, reminisce.

Chemistry graduates Maya Montemayor and Sarah Fisher pose while introducing prospective students to Hurricane Harry’s. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion) (Photo by Adriano Espinosa)
Maya Montemayor and Sarah Fisher

Pouring out of a decorated A&M van in matching blue shirts, chemistry graduate students mingle with prospective ones by the bar. Chemistry graduate Maya Montemayor said Harry’s was their last stop after a day of recruiting activities to give them a sense of Aggie life. 

“A lot of the students are coming from out of town and some out of the state, so it’s just kind of a way for them to see what a common country dance hall looks like and be able to dance,” Montemayor said.

She and fellow chemistry graduate Sarah Fisher are no strangers to Harry’s. In fact, it’s their go-to spot every time they come across someone new.

“This is one of our favorite places to come to show people College Station culture,” Fisher said. “We were here — was it last weekend? — with a Korean exchange student because we just wanted to show her what it was like and she loved it. We like to come here and bring people.”

Fisher wasn’t initially aware Harry’s was relocating, and — after expressing her shock — turned to Montemayor.

“That’s fucked up,” Fisher said. “Did you know they’re relocating? They have to shut down.”

Montemayor had similar feelings of dismay.

“I know,” Montemayor said. “It’s horrible. That really sucks.”

The two both work in Jaime Grunlan’s lab, the Polymer NanoComposites Laboratory, where many of the researchers are Harry’s regulars. They aren’t the only ones — over the past 30 years, it’s been common to spot out-of-towners frequenting the dance hall.

“My brother comes here from Austin all the time,” Fisher said. “I think that’s sad [that they’re relocating]. I don’t know how long it’s been here, but it seems like a long time.”

Biomedical sciences graduate Haley Jouett lines up her shot on the pool table.(Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion) (Photo by Adriano Espinosa)
Haley Jouett and Hailey Knight

In the farthest corner of the bar, a small reunion is happening around the pool tables. Haley and Hailey are best friends; originally from Kaufman, Texas, biomedical sciences graduate Haley Jouett insisted that Hailey Knight make the four-hour journey to her favorite place.

“This is my first time here,” Knight said. “She dragged me here like, ‘It’s so fun. You’ve got to get out here. You meet some of the best people here.’”

Unlike Knight, Jouett is no first-timer. She visits Harry’s at least once or twice a month, whether to meet up with friends for dancing or just relax and shoot pool after a busy day. She loves the environment more than anything.

“I think it reminds me of home,” Jouett said. “We both grew up in a very rural setting, and this is a good kind of country western place to go. It’s a fun place to go dancing and we just enjoy it.”

The bar holds special meaning for Jouett —  after all, it takes credit for her relationship.

“That’s how he and I started dating,” Jouett said. “I’d known him before, but I dragged him here like, ‘You don’t have a choice. You’re coming here,’ and we just hit it off here. We got to know each other a lot better here.”

Cambridge Sinclair, Andrew Rocchi, Mellisa Sinclair and Lavon Light relax after dancing. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion) (Photo by Adriano Espinosa)
The Sinclairs

Off to the side of the DJ, a group of four takes a break after two-stepping. Among them are mother-daughter duo Mellisa and sociology senior Cambridge Sinclair. They’re at Harry’s celebrating Cambridge’s upcoming May graduation.

“I was a Longhorn, but I was glad to drop her off here,” Mellisa said. “I love ‘howdy America.’”

Cambridge said she doesn’t usually have time to go out; however, when she does, she often visits the dance hall because she loves the people there.

“I know that Bella is always just a sweet doll thing,” Cambridge said. “I think that wherever you go, it’s the service that makes you want to come back, and so that’s been a key for me is Bella, who is one of the bartenders here.”

With them is Lavon Light, a veteran of the country music scene. He worked in similar places during and after studying at the University of Texas-Austin. It’s his first night at Harry’s, but already he’s making plans to visit again for concerts.

“I used to be a country western DJ in a club like this back in the [19]80s,” Light said. “It’s cool to see a club like this. They play a lot of great music and they have a great dance floor with a lot of room. I like the layout of the bar.” 

The group’s break in a booth is brief — before long it’s back to dancing, since Mellisa and Lavon had work to do.

“I worked my way through college,” Mellisa said. “I didn’t go out a lot, so I don’t know how to dance, so he’s trying to teach me. I want to learn at an older age.”

Before heading out onto the floor, Cambridge said she’s loved coming to Harry’s over the years and can’t imagine the area without it.

“When I think of College Station, I think of Dixie Chicken and Hurricane Harry’s,” Cambridge said.

Reed Aichholz dips Allison Aichholz on the dance floor. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion) (Photo by Adriano Espinosa)
Allison and Reed Aichholz

Flowy dresses swirl around the second dance floor, dipped by suits and ties as A&M alumni visit old stomping grounds after a friend’s wedding. Allison and Reed Aichholz, both Class of 2021, spent countless hours in Harry’s back when they lived in College Station.

“When we first started dating we’d always come here,” Reed said.

That made Allison laugh and chime in with the full story.

“I remember the first time me and my friends met him and his friends here,” Allison said. “Diana’s one of our friends that taught him how to dance. When we first started dating, he was nervous to dance with me, but he could dance with her.”

The Aichholzs married in early 2023; Allison said it’s difficult to quantify how many happy memories they shared there in the dance hall.

“It’s just fun to be back, together, now that we’re married,” Allison said. “It makes me feel grown up.”

Treading the same worn floorboards again after celebrating a friend’s marriage made them reminisce about their own partnership, the Aichholzs said.

“Where we live, it’s kind of harder to get a place to dance,” Reed said. “We’ve had so much fun with our friends here just going out with them. It’s a good feeling.”

Neon signs illuminate booths and wall decor below. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion)
Neon signs illuminate booths and wall decor below. (Adriano Espinosa/The Battalion) (Photo by Adriano Espinosa)
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