Band festival stirs up swing dancing

Laura Evans and Kyle Denison, students from the University of Redlands, swing dance and entertain the audience as the Harmony Sisters and their Little Big Band perform at the sixth annual Covina Swing Band Festival. Ten swing bands performed at the Covina Park Bandshell for the festival on Saturday and Sunday. The event was organized by the festival committee and it is free to all. / photo by Mariela Patron
Laura Evans and Kyle Denison, students from the University of Redlands, swing dance and entertain the audience as the Harmony Sisters and their Little Big Band perform at the sixth annual Covina Swing Band Festival. Ten swing bands performed at the Covina Park Bandshell for the festival on Saturday and Sunday. The event was organized by the festival committee and it is free to all. / photo by Mariela Patron

Melissa Gasia
Staff Writer

The Covina Concert Band hosted the sixth annual Covina Swing Band Festival featuring live local bands last weekend at the Covina Park.

“It’s so much fun and fantastic,” University of Redlands student Laura Evans said. “Everybody is here to have a good time and enjoy the music. Nobody is showing off.”

The Covina Swing Band Festival is an energetic annual event that celebrates the popularity of big band music composed of jazz and swing tunes.

Audience participation is central to the festival. They are encouraged to swing dance with both their feet off the ground.

The dancers moved around the stage while others dined by the grass with their families and friends, while listening to the local bands perform and enjoying the dancing atmosphere. The dancers seemed to be transported from the big band era.

The organizers said the audience participation – dancing – was key, and stirred up excitement for a memorable concert.

“The majority of people who are into jazz and big band swing are a lot of fun to be around with,” said University of Redlands student Kyle Denison, who danced with Evans. “We are dancing. That’s the point.”

The band Twist of Orange started off the festival – with audience dancing in the aisles, at their seats and beside the stage.

Denison and Evans were the first pair to swing on the dance floor in front of the stage.

“There is no pressure,” Denison said. “You sometimes go to dance venues and there are really, really good dancers. You don’t really want to dance there but here it’s all open and a lot of fun,” he said.

This is the first year the Covina Swing Band Festival, which has grown from featuring three bands to 10, was scheduled for two days.

Besides Twist of Orange, included the Harmony Sisters and Their Little Big Band, Palminteri and the Big Band, Bob Snyder Red Apple Orchestra and City Beat, among others.

“I’m happy with the crowd,” said band leader Frank Palminteri.

His band has 15 members, aged 50 to 84.

“I think it’s great that the older people get out,” said the 84-year-old Palminteri.

Organizers agreed that it was the audience, particularly the swing dancers, who made the festival a success, though they credit the volunteer staff with making it happen.

The annual Covina Swing Band Festival was sponsored by the nonprofit Covina Concert Band.

Melissa Gasia can be reached at melissa.gasia@laverne.edu.

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