Khyentse George's grandparents met at a Pennsylvania radio station where her grandmother, Joan, was a singer and her grandfather, Ed, became an announcer upon his return from World War II duty. Their love story inspired George’s passionate interest in the culture and music of the 1940s and led to the creation of a nonprofi t organization, 1940’s Ball NFP, that produces the 1940’s WWII Era Ball every June in Boulder and the 1940’s White Christmas Ball each December in Denver.
Not only are the events fully staged in the era from top to bottom, attendees are strongly encouraged to wear 1940s-themed evening attire, party dresses, suits and uniforms. There are tips on the organization’s website regarding how to find vintage clothing and achieve the look, and even an on-site salon the day of the Boulder ball with stylists experienced in creating 1940s hairdos
Now in its 10th year, 1940’s Ball NFP relies on a team of volunteers and part-time staff that likes to change the events up with new themes and features each year. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Colorado 10th Mountain Division Foundation, Commemorative Air Force, Rocky Mountain Honor Flight, Audie Murphy Infantry Museum and Young Aviators 43.
Colorado Meetings + Events connected with George to see what it takes to pull off two balls annually, both requiring multiple moving parts and selling out to crowds of more than 2,000 people of all ages.
COM+E: How did the 1940’s WWII Era Ball get started?
KG: I had been organizing concerts and music festivals in Chicago and, since my grandparents were radio performers in the 1940s, I had always wanted to do a ‘40s event. While working and taking flight lessons at the Boulder Airport, I began meeting folks who had WWII planes. They introduced me to their friends who had WWII tanks and Jeeps or were re-enactors. Little by little, all the pieces started coming together and the ball came to fruition at the Boulder Airport.
The first year, we didn’t expect the kind of turnout we got and it was meant to be a onetime thing, a fundraiser. Then we thought we could do it in the winter as well, starting out in Boulder and moving to Wings Over the Rockies in Denver and now Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center. My grandparents were very into the holidays and entertaining, and they had a big party at their house.
COM+E: What goes into the planning?
KG: I didn’t have a budget at first, so it was pretty much all street marketing and whatever free PR I could get. As far as planning, we have entertainment booked out sometimes years in advance, but the bulk of the activities start getting planned about a year in advance. There is a great deal of thought and planning that goes into the production. Surrounding the event there are literally hundreds of hours of logistics to be managed.
COM+E: Why do so many people identify with the 1940s and embrace the ball?
KG: The ball is kind of a time capsule event that provides a sense of escapism that is very important in this hectic world—a way to temporarily immerse ourselves in the music, culture, glamour and warmth of that special era. I think for many folks there’s a vicarious joy to experiencing a time when there was deep sentimentality, romance, national pride and sacrifice and where everyone felt a part of something bigger than themselves.
COM+E: What are some of your favorite moments from past balls?
KG: Watching B25 Doolittle Raider Bill Bower dance and flirt with all the young girls in front of a B25. Seeing a WWII nurse leave at 1 a.m. with a slice of pizza hung over the handle of her walker. Hearing from WWII veterans in their 90s about how they felt like rock stars and look forward to the ball all year. Meeting attendees and learning all the wonderful stories they have from their parents and grandparents about the era.
COM+E: Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong era?
KG: Sometimes I do! I put a high priority on love, integrity and dedication to honor and duty. I deeply believe in family values and the importance of community. I also love the class and style of the ‘40s—there was such attention to detail. I appreciate that through rationing came stunning hairstyles like victory rolls, gorgeous repurposed clothing, beautiful stitching and embroidery, and even drawing lines on your legs for nylons. I admire the sensibility and creativity that comes from having to make something out of nothing.
My husband, who I married last year, was an attendee for eight years and is a swing dancer and WWII history buff. It was exciting to meet someone so into the 1940s like I am, and it’s really special to organize these events with him.
10th Annual 1940’s WWII Era Ball
THEME: 10th Anniversary: A Celebration of V-Day
WHEN: June 16, 2018, 6 p.m. - 1 a.m.
WHERE: Boulder Airport, Boulder
This summer marks a milestone anniversary for the USO-style event, which once again will be held outdoors and in the hangar at Boulder Airport and feature two full stages for entertainment, one for big bands and another for swing bands. A WWII aircraft flyover is set to launch the event with Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters landing in a WWII plane for a red-carpet arrival. With this year’s Victory Street Party theme, a Victory Boulevard and authentic radio broadcast announcing the end of the war complete with a confetti drop and celebration midevening are planned.
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT:
» The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra
» Satin Dollz
» Hot Tomatoes Orchestra
» Bob Hope Tribute
» Joe Smith & the Spicy Pickles Swing Jazz Band
» Jeremy Mohney Swing Band
» WWII planes & military vehicles
» 1940s-era cars » Pin-up girl, costume & dance contests
» Swing dance lessons
» Food trucks & mess hall
» Rick’s Café Americain from “Casablanca”
» Tiki Bar » On the home front crafting & repurposing station » Vintage fair & hair salon
Ninth Annual 1940’s White Christmas Ball
THEME: For the Love of all Things 1940’s
WHEN: Dec. 1, 2018, 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.
WHERE: Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, Denver
For the second year, the 1940’s White Christmas Ball returns to the heart of Denver for an evening of stepping back in time for a glamorous holiday party that invokes blissful nostalgia of a simpler time. Set in two ballrooms, guests mix, mingle and dance among vintage vehicles, movie set lights and props, re-enactors, sleighs, Christmas trees, and a canopy of twinkling lights. George says, “This ball is a black-tie ‘40s look, and it is stunning to walk around and see everyone dressed up so nicely.”
MUSIC & ENTERTAINMENT:
» Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra
» Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra
» Satin Dollz
» Vintage Vegas Tribute Show with Frank Sinatra & friends
» Vintage acts
» Movie set lights, props and displays
» 1940s-era cars and military vehicles
» WWII base camp displays
» Swing dance lessons & demonstrations
» Costume & dance contests
» Roulette table & cigarette girls
» Red carpet paparazzi arrival
» Ornament-making station
» Presentations by WWII re-enactor and historians
» Vintage fair and hair salon