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Pen Mar series dances out in autumn air

October 01, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

CASCADE - There was something in the air at Pen Mar Park on Sunday.

It was a sunny afternoon and despite the 1,400-foot altitude, the air was warm enough for the dancers in the pavilion to work up a good sweat as they kicked and swirled to big-band tunes. Still, each time the Music Makers Orchestra lowered its instruments, there it was, unmistakably: autumn. And with autumn comes the end of the Pen Mar Park summer Sunday concert series.

What's a Lindy Hopper to do?

"We go into this kind of hibernation mode," said Steve Springer of Hagers-town, a local swing-dance enthusiast and instructor. Without the Sunday dances at Pen Mar, he and his wife, Pam, sometimes have to travel to Washington, D.C., to find swing dance events in the winter. Still, the couple manages to dance three or four nights a week, Springer said.

From their lawn chairs in front of the pavilion, concert regulars Bernie Tomlinson and Ilene Minich of Waynesboro, Pa., also were savoring their final Pen Mar concert of the season.

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Tomlinson, who is 81, has been coming to Pen Mar Park since she visited the amusement park on the site as a child. Minich, 84, remembers watching bands play there with her husband while they were dating in the 1940s. Now both women return each summer for the fresh air, music and memories.

"We've made a lot of friends, and we love the big-band music," said Tomlinson, who has only missed one concert this summer. Without the concerts, Tomlinson said she'll probably use her Sundays to get some reading in, and her husband will use the time to watch football.

"It's been a wonderful season," said concert organizer Jim Powers, executive secretary of the American Federation of Musicians Local 770. "I hate to see it end."

This summer, he said, there were only two Sundays with bad weather. The crowds have been bigger - usually between 1,500 and 2,000 people, with about 6,000 at Everybody's Day - and they've stayed longer. They've also included more young people.

"That's always nice to see," he said. "You always expect to see the older dancers."

Starting next week, Powers will devote his Sundays to lining up next year's schedule of performers. Next year's season will open June 1 and include 19 Sundays, wrapping up Oct. 5, he said.

Meanwhile, Kurtis Meyers, president of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, used the opportunity to advertise another event that might interest locals with a love for 1940s music.

The museum will host a "hanger dance" at the Hagerstown Regional Airport terminal on Showalter Road Oct. 6 at 7 p.m., featuring the big band music of the Ray Birely Orchestra. Tickets cost $20 in advance or $25 at the door, and proceeds will benefit the museum's efforts to repair a donated a 1953 Fairchild C-119G aircraft so it can be flown to the museum from its current home in Wyoming, Meyers said.

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