Some thoughts on the Coney Island, Cincinnati, OH Big Band Dances,
by Mike & Mary Richardson, December 15, 2023.
Mike & Mary were sad indeed to learn that Coney Island Park in Cincy is closing at the end of 2023. The property is being sold to a management company that plans to build a music entertainment type venue.
Mike & Mary first attended a big band dance at Coney Island in 2000, and we attended those types of events at Coney Island almost every year since. We also took our grandchildren for day trips to Coney Island; we all really enjoyed the great Sunlite pool, the water slides, the carousel, etc.
For the first few years we attended the big band dances the Pete Wagner Big Band provided the music. Those events were held on the Saturday (or the closest Saturday) for the Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day weekends – three events in the summer season! Those events always attracted good crowds, both dancers and those that just liked to listen to good quality big band music. At some point (I don’t remember the exact year) the radio station that sponsored those dances changed formats and the dances with the Pete Wagner Big Band ceased.
I believe it was only a year or two later that the Cincinnati Warbirds began to sponsor an annual USO Swing Dance/Salute to Veterans dance at Coney Island on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The music was provided by the Tom Daugherty Orchestra and featured their re-creation of the Glenn Miller Army-Air Force World War II band. A highlight of this event each year was a Jam Circle at the end of the second set. Those were also fun events to attend, with patriotic elements in the event, to include the posting of the colors, and Cincinnati area veteran’s recognition during the intermission.
Mike & Mary are going to miss not only the big band dances at Coney Island but the park itself. Thanks Coney Island – – for all the great memories!
One last note. Below is a group photo taken at the Coney Island Big Band dance in 2022. Many of the Cincinnati area dancers that were got to know from when we first started swing dancing are in the photo below. There is probably about 200 years of Lindy Hop/Balboa dance experience represented within this group.