Bill Wichman doesn’t plan to wear his old Air Force uniform to Saturday’s Rochester Hangar Dance at Rochester International Airport.
“No way,” he says. “It wouldn’t fit.”
Nevertheless, Wichman, who is new to town, is looking forward to attending his first hangar dance, based in large part on what he’s heard about it from others.
“We really like that it’s a place to have a fun time, where people interested in history can have a darn good evening venturing back in time,” says Richard Krom, chairman of the event. “And it’s a really good opportunity to raise funds for the museum.”
That would be the Minnesota Veterans and Emergency Services Museum, which a local group of supporters wants to build. This is the third year for the dance, which is modeled on dances that were often held in airplane hangars at U.S. military bases during World War II.
Those who attend are encouraged to wear 1940s-era styles and military uniforms, although that is not required, Krom says.
The Rochester version was originally organized by Tom and Jan Hosier. However, Tom Hosier died last fall, and Jan Hosier is not taking part this year.
“She didn’t feel like she could do it, which is very understandable,” explains Krom.
Meanwhile, planning has continued for this year’s dance, which will include:
- A swing dance lesson by Dahl Dance Center
- The Caledonia Pipe Band playing for the opening ceremony
- Dancing to swing music by the Generation II Big Band
- A 1940s Grand March, with awards for best male and female civilian dress, best male and female military dress, and best couple
- A silent auction
- A “mess hall’ with food for sale, and the B-25 Bar, with beer, wine and soft drinks
- Exhibits and displays, including vintage military vehicles
- Historic planes parked on the tarmac outside the hangar
“Last year, people of all ages attended, from early 20s to World War II veterans,” Krom says. “That’s important, because we don’t want younger people to think it’s an old folks event.”
All proceeds go the museum project. “Any money people spend will help support our effort to build a museum to carry on the legacy of people who have served us,” says Krom.
Four World War II planes, one of them with quite a historic legacy, will be available for viewing and rides Saturday at Rochester International Airport.
A B-25 Mitchell bomber, along with a Ryan PT-22 Recruit, Vultee BT-13 Valiant, and Stinson L-5 Sentinel, will be flown in by the Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. The planes will be in Rochester in conjunction with the Rochester Hangar Dance Saturday night.
The planes are scheduled to arrive at 9 a.m., weather permitting. Visitors can walk up to the parked planes for a closer look until sundown.
The B-25 that will be at the airport served with the 12th Air Force in North Africa and Italy during the war. The plane flew 130 missions, and amazingly suffered no fatalities among its crew. The Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force obtained the plane in 1980 and spent 12 years restoring it to its original condition. Rides are available for $500.
The PT-22 and BT-13 were used to train pilots during the war, while the L-5 was used for a variety of duties, including reconnaissance and medical evacuation. Rides are available at $150 for the PT-22, $200 for BT-13 and $150 for the L-5.
The planes will be parked on the tarmac at Signature Flight Support.