Dance back in time at Omaka

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - OUT & ABOUT - DAVID JAMES

It’s a night out in the 1940s, the boys are home from Eu­rope and it’s time to party.

Bring your sweet­heart or find your­self a new one, when The Gar­ri­son So­ci­ety proudly presents Blen­heim’s first Vic­tory Dance at the Clubs of Marl­bor­ough on Sun­day June 3 – Queen’s Birth­day Week­end.

Get dressed up to the nines or come as you are to en­joy mu­sic and en­ter­tain­ment by The Beat­girls from Welling­ton.

Their spe­cial blend of 1940s mu­sic and per­for­mance is sure to keep ev­ery­one mov­ing from 7pm un­til mid­night.

The Beat­girls are an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned group and have per­formed at two con­sec­u­tive Olympic Games events in Syd­ney and Athens.

This will be the first time The Gar­ri­son So­ci­ety hosts the event with all pro­ceeds go­ing to a wor­thy cause – the preser­va­tion and her­itage of the for­mer RNZAF Sta­tion Omaka build­ings near the Omaka Aero­drome. Hopes of re­open­ing the site as a his­tor­i­cal theme park are on the ta­ble too.

The site, a key part of Marl­bor­ough’s mil­i­tary his­tory, has fallen into dis­re­pair since it ceased to be used for train­ing pur­poses in 2007.

The Gar­ri­son So­ci­ety says the mu­seum will be the first of its kind in the coun­try, and a boost for tourism in the re­gion:

‘‘We’re hop­ing that it’s go­ing to end up be­com­ing pretty much New Zealand’s only liv­ing his­tory mu­seum,’’ says Gar­ri­son So­ci­ety mem­ber Adam North.

‘‘The pub­lic will walk in and they’ll be ac­tu­ally on a WWII func­tion­ing base. In­stead of see­ing things be­hind glass ... you’ll walk into the ad­min room and peo­ple will be there, in pe­riod uni­form do­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks. There will be a jeep driv­ing past you out­side. You’ll ac­tu­ally be trans­ported back to the era so you can see how things were be­ing done.’’

The so­ci­ety has been cus­to­di­ans of the site since 2013, but only re­cently be­gan plan­ning to bring the base back to life:

‘‘We started off years ago as an­other group,’’ says North. ‘‘We were a his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion group. Some of our mem­bers do re-en­act­ments as well, but our main fo­cus at the mo­ment is the preser­va­tion of the RNZAF site, and get­ting the build­ings up to mu­seum sta­tus.

It’s all very ex­cit­ing stuff, and the Vic­tory Dance prom­ises to be a step in the right di­rec­tion for mak­ing those dreams a re­al­ity. But there’s still plenty of work to do:

‘‘We’ve got to get the elec­tric­ity back on here,’’ says Gar­ri­son So­ci­ety mem­ber Alan Udy.

‘‘We need weath­er­boards, paint ... It’s all those re­ally ba­sic things,’’ he said.

‘‘The whole point is to raise funds for the preser­va­tion and the restora­tion. So we thought ‘Let’s do a pe­riod dance. Get the Beat­girls over from Welling­ton.’ They’re pretty good at what they do. We just want peo­ple to come along and have a great time.

‘‘Ob­vi­ously, if peo­ple come dressed up, that’s re­ally good. If they don’t, it’s not a prob­lem.

‘‘If they don’t want to dance, if they just want to come and en­joy the theme and the nos­tal­gia, that’s great ... the more peo­ple that get into the theme of it, the bet­ter.’’

Per­for­mances for the Omaka Vic­tory Dance will pri­mar­ily fea- ture 1940s era swing mu­sic, but the fi­nal set of the evening will progress into 1950s Rock n Roll for the more ‘mod­ern’ danc­ing crowd.

To help cre­ate an au­then­tic 1940s at­mos­phere pe­riod dress is en­cour­aged. Oth­er­wise, come smartly dressed for a great evening of danc­ing and nos­tal­gia.

Strictly lim­ited tick­ets are on sale at $65 per per­son, which in­cludes fin­ger food. There will be no door sales on the night, so re­serve your place on the dance floor while you can.

For more de­tails, go to


Gar­ri­son So­ci­ety mem­ber Adam North Gar­ri­son So­ci­ety Mem­bers Ernie Smith, left, Adam North, Robyn Smith (front), and Al­lan Udy in one of the main build­ings at the RNZAF Sta­tion Omaka.

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