Stompin’ at the 1940s Ball

By Marjorie Magazine
Pictures Courtesy of Khyentse George

Picture a warm breeze, the sprawl of the Colorado mountains before you, and thousands of lights that twinkle against the sky on a June day in the Boulder Municipal Airport, hosting yet again the wonders of the Greatest Generation for its annual 1940s Ball. The scene is almost too perfect, spot on in the period styles of its many attendees, the sweet music that plays by the Glenn Miller Orchestra while the Satin Dollz take center stage, and the planes, the cars, and big screen that projects Casablanca against the incoming stars. For one weekend, the 1940s find themselves the belle of the ball in the present day.

Beginning in 2011, Khyentse George was inspired to celebrate the decade and its music in which her own grandparents met when they both worked at WCDL Carbondale, a Pennsylvania radio station. As she was just finishing earning her pilot’s license at the Boulder Airport, it made sense that hositng a celebration remembering the beautiful stories of such a monumental time in American history would resonate well with so many others. Although the first Ball was just a swing band and a vintage plane on display, Khyentse had faith that it wouldn’t be long before the ball would grow into the wondrous spectacle that it has become today.

“The Ball is kind of a time capsule event that provides a sense of escapism that is very important in this hectic world; a way to temporarily immerse ourselves in the music, culture, glamour and warmth of that special era,” She tells us, more than anything an old photograph or book could accomplish. “It’s truly like jumping in a time machine.”

With this year’s festivities set to feature a dazzling array of entertainers, cuisine, and exhibits,
attendees are eager to step back into the 1940s once more, and more so in the light of a shocking year behind us, when the ball had to be postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19. And who wouldn’t be excited with highly anticipated appearances by the beloved New York sensation Dandy Wellington, an air show, a chance to try your voice at radio broadcasting with the BBC Radio, and the beloved Victory Street, where you can take a stroll down the lane studded in a canopy of lights and displays? You’ll even get a chance to try your luck at the roulette table within the recreated
set of Rick’s Cafe Americain. It really is the 1940s come to life, and the full effect wouldn’t be perfect if not for the enthusiasm of attendees dressed accurately for the occasion. Popups from stores like The Hop in their darling vintage trailer make it easy for anyone feeling a bit dressed down to join in on the styles of the era, and the best dressed can always expect entering the annual costume contest. Best of all, and perhaps the grandest way to close out the weekend at the Ball, would be none other than swinging with a friend on the dance floor!

The 1940s Ball is honored with the presence of a few WWII veterans, many in their nineties, who look forward to attending each year as they are embraced like rock stars.

Touching back on the memory of her grandparents, whom she would often see dance together and enjoy themselves so much, Khyentse notes the beautiful significance of dancing at the ball.“Technology has increased the means and volume of communication, but paradoxically people might be more isolated,” she says. “Couples dancing is such a simple, fun and classy way for humans to connect! It’s so wonderful to see how happy folks are out on the dance floor, enjoying the bands, the nostalgia and each other, regardless of their age or skill level.”

There’s a vicarious joy to experiencing a time when there was deep sentimentality, romance, national pride, sacrifice and where everyone felt a part of something bigger than themselves.

– Khyentse George

Even as thrilling as it seems once you’re in the midst of it all, your memories of the weekend, as if truly from the past, will make you feel truly connected to and grateful for everything that The Greatest Generation was able to fight and claim victory for in order to create a better world for the decades to come. The 1940s Ball does a tremendous job at honoring the brave men and women of the decade in numerous ways, starting this year’s Ball with an exclusive showcase of the Commemorative Air Force, Red Tail Squadron’s Rise Above traveling exhibit, featuring a restored WWII-era P-51 Mustang – the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military pilots. The Ball also commemorates our heroes of the 1940s by having them celebrate alongside us. Many WWII veterans grace the event with their presence and enjoy talking with reenactors and playfully chatting with young ladies dressed in 1940s fashions. One year, Khyentse recalls a woman helping her mother, a WWII nurse donning her original uniform and a walker, leave theBall at 1 in the morning– she didn’t want to leave! Another elderly woman had the reunion of her life– she happened to be attending the Ball that year the same time as the US officer who was stationed in her village in the Philippines during WWII– let alone sitting next to him, the same officer who used to give her candy as a child.

Stories like these are only a part of the overall magnetism of joy and unity that the 1940s Ball brings, truly reflecting on the heart of the nation when the days were at their darkest. “ I have an enormous amount of respect for the folks who lived through this era—they were invested in each other and had an attitude to “make do/can do” and enjoy life despite it being a very difficult time,” Khyentse reminds us. “It was like no other time in our history and it really helped bring us together.”

In celebrating the best of the era at the 1940s Ball, we continue celebrating the spirit of humanity as it rises above the worst– past, present, and future.

Learn more about the upcoming 1940s Ball by visiting their website at 1940sball.org

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