Beth Shapiro and David Milburn, both of Denver, practice their swing dance moves Saturday during the 1940s Ball at the Boulder Municipal Airport.
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The jaunty swing of big band music carried to the edge of the parking lot Saturday outside the Boulder Municipal Airport, where it seemed the world had stepped back in time, if only for a night.

The sound was just many elements of the 1940s Ball, which drew hundreds from areas across the country to embrace the era and a variety of vintage costumes. Women dressed in polka dots, pin strips and hats adorned with quivering feathers. Men sported World War II-era military uniforms, sailor suits, milk man uniforms and press jockey attire.

The 11th annual event commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, celebrated the queen of England on her 66th Coronation Anniversary and provided a little nostalgia through a variety of events. Those who participated could learn to swing dance, interact with living history actors in the form of cigarette girls peddling rations, soldiers who posed for photos atop army tanks and the Women’s Army Corp. People strolled down Victory Street, a five-nation promenade that included England, Canada, France and Poland — countries that contributed to Allied D-Day victory.

In the skies, a flyover further commemorated the D-Day anniversary and a World War II air show featured dozens of vintage air craft. Before taking the stage to croon to the crowd, a Frank Sinatra impersonator parachuted to the ground. Other musical impersonators included The Andrews Sisters and Bob Hope.

Khyentse George , director of the event, said she was working at the Boulder Municipal Airport when she got the idea for creating a themed fundraiser that could support veterans. She was inspired by her late grandparents Edward and Joan James . Both were radio announcers who shared their love of storytelling and big band music with her. Edward James also was a World War II veteran. In their honor, George said she wanted to create an event that would share the 1940s era with others while helping support veterans.

“They were the most perfect couple,” George said. “I wanted to be like them when I grew up.”

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to organizations that support veterans, including The Colorado 10th Mountain Division Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Honor Flight. The 1940s Ball NFP nonprofit, which hosted Saturday’s event, also hosts a winter ball with the same theme to raise funds. Since its inception, the nonprofit has donated more than $100,000 to charity organizations, George said.

Like George, many had their grandparents’ stories in mind when they attended the event Saturday. While rifling through a photo box days before the event, Ryan Handy , of Fort Collins, came across a picture of her late grandfather Leonard DeLayo. She pulled up a picture of the black and white photograph on her phone, showing DeLayo dressed in his Marine uniform.

“He was sort of a larger-than-life character,” she said. “He was Italian from the Bronx. He was really boisterous, very commanding. He loved singing World War II songs. He had a song for every occasion.”

When DeLayo died when she was 14, she started listening to big band music and watching 1930s- and 1940s-era movies, which she said helped her feel connected to him.

For her costume, Handy did her research. She found a company that made lipstick colors from the 1940s. On Saturday, she wore a shade of lipstick called 1940’s Victory Red, a skirt, a beige button-up top and professional dancing shoes. She attended the event with her boyfriend Patrick Rockers of Fort Collins who dressed as a Scottish officer in a beret, kilt, wool socks and a personal touch, boots from his job as a firefighter.

The event drew people from across the country to participate. For Andy and Brandy Kaiser , of Rapid City, South Dakota, the ball has become an important tradition. The couple first attended the winter version of the 1940s Ball on their first wedding anniversary, Dec. 3. It’s a tradition they said they plan to continue. The summer event marks the halfway point to their anniversary, they said.

Brandy wore a pink skirt that matched her hair, while Andy sported a white button-up shirt and suspenders.

“The atmosphere is just wonderful,” Andy said. “It’s just fun. It’s different, very different. That’s one of the most fun parts about this is putting the costumes together.”

While for some the event helped them experience the 1940s for the first time, for others it was a blast to the past.

World War II veteran Norm Oliphant , of Windsor, attended the event with his wife Marcia .

“It’s very interesting to see all the people,” Norm Oliphant said. “It brings back a lot of memories.”

He was among the veterans recognized during a ceremony near the beginning of the event. An announcer called out the names of each World War II veteran in attendance to recognize them for their service.

The event also featured an educational component, giving people the opportunity to learn about history in an interactive way. Under a canopy, living history actors Emily McBlair and Beth Williams sought to teach people about the Women’s Army Corp. McBlair described WAC as “pivotal” in bringing women to the forefront of World War II history. Despite this legacy, McBlair said not many people know about WAC.

Living history actor Emily McBlair, of Wellington, shakes hands with veteran Dale States, of Northglenn, on Saturday during the 1940s Ball at the Boulder Municipal Airport. States was among the veterans recognized Saturday during the ball.

“They were used extensively in administrative positions. They were also used as mechanics and for photography,” McBlair said. “Lots of people know about WACs, but they do not how pivotal they actually were.”

For her part, George said she hoped the ball once again helped people to helped to connect people with history.

“We just hope that we can take people back in time for the night and understand and appreciate the nostalgia and everything this generation has done to get us where we are now,” George said.

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