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1940s swing dance slated at Old Fort Niagara

YOUNGSTOWN – It’s time to shake off the winter doldrums and swing into spring with a new event planned for the Fort Niagara Officers Club at Old Fort Niagara.

“Swing Into the ’40s,” a swing dance planned for 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday will offer dance lessons, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, door prizes, a dance competition and music by Buffalo Jazz & Swing Band.

“Hosting a swing dance is a fun and energetic way of drawing attention to Fort Niagara’s 20th century history,” said Lauren Agnello, event organizer. She is also a 10-year veteran in the fort’s Interpretive Department.

“Many people are aware of Old Fort Niagara’s colonial history, but don’t know about its role in training officers in World War I or as a POW Camp during World War II,” Agnello added. “I wanted to organize a fundraiser that would make people more aware while still having fun.”

Robert Emerson, the fort’s executive director, noted that the Officers Club was constructed in 1938 and was used through the early 1960s.

“Its official name was the Bachelor Officers Quarters, or BOQ,” he noted, adding that the club is not generally open to the public.

Agnello said she had hoped for the past several years to stage a swing dance and when the fort decided to give its Tavern Nights a hiatus this year, the event fit right in.

“I have always loved the ’40s and the history behind it, and a swing dance is a fun way to bring history alive, especially in a building from World War II,” she said.

The evening will include a 30-minute swing dance lesson by Swing Buffalo; entry in a vintage 1940s-themed door prize giveaway (one male and one female prize-winner); awards for a dance competition and best-dressed male and female; and four hours of music by the Buffalo Jazz and Swing Band.

Attendees have the option of wearing 1940s-inspired clothing. According to Agnello, women’s swing-dance attire in that era included skirts, blouses and dresses that created an hourglass silhouette with the help of shoulder pads. Saddle shoes, wedges and low-heeled oxfords were common footwear.

Tickets are $60 each and are available presale only by calling 745-7611 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Proceeds will benefit the fort’s education programming.