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Article Archive >> Community

1940's Hangar Dance Attended by Hundreds, Hagerstown Regional Airport Terminal Packed With Big Band Lovers

PHOTO CAP: Courtesy of Rhonda Christiano. "Swing dancers enjoy the music of Ray Birely Orchestra, at the Hangar Dance benefiting the Hagerstown Aviation Museum and Discovery Station. Hundreds of big band enthusiasts packed the airport terminal in Hagerstown."


1940's Hangar Dance Attended by Hundreds, Hagerstown Regional Airport Terminal Packed With Big Band Lovers

(Hagerstown, MD)- The promise of great big band music packed more than two hundred people into the Hagerstown Regional Airport terminal on Saturday night. The 1940's USO-style Hangar Dance, came complete with attendees in World War Two uniforms, swing dance outfits, and period attire.
The evening began with several World War Two-era planes being taxied next to the airport terminal, courtesy of Tracey Potter of Hagerstown Aircraft Services. "This event is a great fundraiser for the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, and a wonderful part of the 9th annual fly-in." Potter also serves as vice president of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, and has contributed hundreds of hours annually for the museum displays and exhibits.
Potter also said that a historic aircraft fly-over and a military honor guard provided a moving kick-off to the event. "We had several planes fly over the field, just as we were beginning the Hangar Dance. There were a lot of tears in people's eyes, as the color guard stood tall when the historic AT-6 piloted by Tom Malone came roaring over the field." Many of the attendees were World War Two and Korean War veterans.
WJEJ Radio helped sponsor the event, in conjunction with the station's 75th anniversary. The 17-piece Ray Birely Orchestra attracted swing dancers from throughout the four-state area, as people packed the dance floor in the airport terminal. "The Ray Birely Orchestra has quite a following," said Lou Scally of WJEJ Radio, "This is a terrific 1940's-style orchestra, and WJEJ is glad to be a part of this event." Scally served as event Master of Ceremonies, and introduced several notable attendees, including WJEJ owner John Staub; Hagerstown Aviation Museum leadership Kurtis Meyers, John Seburn, and Tracey Potter; Discovery Station Director Marie Beyers, and CVB President Tom Riford.
During the evening a special presentation was made to a Korean War Marine Corps veteran who said his life was saved by the Hagerstown-built C-82. Paul Summers' unit was surrounded and nearly over-run by enemy forces, and he and his fellow Marines were down to their last few rounds of ammunition. "C-82 Angels of Mercy" flew over his unit, and dropped "all the ammunition we needed, and supplies," said Summers. A painting by local artist Larry Selman was presented to the retired Marine, who was overcome with emotion. The painting "Burning of the Colors" focused on a valiant combat effort during November of 1950 (see: www.selmanartworks.com).
The Hangar Dance was part of the 9th annual fly-in and reunion which was designed to bring together former Fairchild employees, members of the aviation community, and the general public with an interest in aviation and its extensive local history. The Hagerstown Aviation Museum had a display at the event, featuring part of the museum's significant collection. Several Fairchild Aircraft that were built in Hagerstown were on display at the dance, and also during the fly-in, as well as modern, classic, antique planes, and vintage war birds. Experimental aircraft were on display, and EAA Chapter 36 volunteers were on hand. A highlight of the weekend included tours of Hagerstown Aircraft Services.
During the fly-in, scores of children between the ages of 8 and 17 took the opportunity to experience flight, free of charge, through the generosity of local pilots who participate in the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) "Young Eagles" program. At times during the weekend, the free flights were so successful, that people sometimes waited nearly an hour. "We take great delight in bringing the love of aviation to young people," said Potter. "This is what the fly-in is all about to me personally, to introduce aviation to a whole new generation."
During part of the day on Sunday, the fly-in made national news, as several "antique aircraft without radios" were escorted by F-16 aircraft, because of President Bush attending a memorial service in Emmitsburg, in neighboring Frederick County. According to the Federal Aviation Administration from about 9 a.m. to noon yesterday, a dozen planes accidentally crossed into the no-fly zone, a temporary restriction of 30 aeronautical miles on the airspace that included Camp David and Emmitsburg, the site of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
The annual fly-in and reunion event was co-sponsored by Hagerstown Aircraft Services, the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 36, and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Hangar Dance specifically benefited the Hagerstown Aviation Museum and Discovery Station. The aviation museum's present home is located in the Discovery Station at 101 West Washington Street, until the new permanent home is constructed.
The Hagerstown Aviation Museum has the largest museum-owned collection of rare and historic aircraft in the State of Maryland. The museum has announced that a building project is planned for next to the Hagerstown Regional Airport, which will include displays and exhibits at the museum's permanent home. Hagerstown was home to several aircraft manufacturing companies, during a more than 75 year period, including the world-famous Fairchild Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which made several military planes including the A-10, PT-19, C-82 and C-119. Tens of thousands of people live in the Hagerstown-area, who once worked at the Fairchild facility during its years of operation.
For more information about the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, see: www.hagerstownaviationmuseum.org. For more information about Hagerstown Aircraft Services, call: 301-733-7604. For more information about Hagerstown-Washington County, see: www.marylandmemories.com, for more information about WJEJ Radio, see: www.wjejradio.com.

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