ST. GEORGE — Vintage airplanes and classic cars set the scene for the “1940s Hangar Dance” held at the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum Friday evening where guests young and old came together to reminisce on a bygone era and pay tribute to World War II veterans.
Hosted by the Warbird Museum and Red Rock Swing Dance, the 1940s Hangar Dance helps commemorate National Armed Forces Day, a combined celebration of all the branches of the United States armed forces.
The event, which is now in its fourth year, has grown from about 100 people in its first year to about 300 guests this year, Jack Hunter, owner of the Warbird Museum and retired Air Force colonel, said.
Hunter said the event brings in a diverse crowd of both older veterans and younger kids who want to learn how to swing dance. It is that mix which makes the Hangar Dance so much fun.
“I spent 33 years in the military, so it’s phenomenal to see people and meet people and everything,” Hunter said. “It’s just such a fun thing to do.”
World War II Veterans in attendance were asked to stand at the start of the event and guests paid tribute to their service with a round of applause.
Veterans were further honored when the Dixie Rebel Jazz Band, an 18-piece jazz and swing band, played the songs of each branch of the armed forces while veterans stood to represent the military branch or branches in which they served.
Guests were treated to a patriotic performance by members of Red Rock Swing Dance. Then the dance floor was opened up for everyone to do the Lindy Hop, swing and waltz the night away.
More than just dance
The years leading up to and during World War II were an historically difficult time in the United States and throughout the world, Red Rock Swing Dance member Eric Palmer said at the Hangar Dance. Just as the United States was coming out of the Great Depression, a growing power of enemy forces was once again throwing the world into war.
For those who lived in the late 1930s and the 1940s, dance was more than just a social affair, Palmer said. Dance was an outlet to relieve stress, vent frustrations, forget the turmoil for a time and enjoy lively music.
Red Rock Swing Dance is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the music and dances, particularly of the 1940s era, and to paying tribute to what journalist Tom Brokaw, in his 1998 book, described as “The Greatest Generation.”
“It’s paying back to a golden age,” Palmer said. “This was when patriotism was in style.”
Red Rock Swing Dance holds many events throughout the year, including a swing dance held every second Saturday of the month; but, Palmer said, the Hangar Dance in particular offers the group the greatest opportunity to honor those veterans who sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom.
For Tiffany Barnes, a Red Rock Swing Dance “hottie” — so named because of how hot Southern Utah gets in the summer, she said — being able to express her patriotism and honor veterans at the Hangar Dance gives her a warm, wonderful feeling.
“These are the genuine articles, these people who served,” she said.
About the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum
The Warbird Museum is an independently operated nonprofit museum with a stated mission to preserve, restore and display aircraft for the educational benefit of current and future generations.
It is the goal of the museum to teach aviation warbird history to ensure that the sacrifices of those who flew the historic aircraft are never forgotten.
The Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum is open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entrance to the museum is free but a donation of $2 per person or $5 per family is suggested. The museum is open Monday and Tuesday by appointment only. To make an appointment call Jack Hunter at 435-699-0655.
In continued celebration of National Armed Forces Day, the museum will be hosting its annual Wings and Wheels event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free to attend and will include guided tours, vintage aircraft, classic cars and warbird flights. Flights are contingent upon weather.
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