By Cloie Sandlin
Get ready to put on your dancing shoes and save the date for the area’s best Valentine’s dance for boomers and seniors.
This semi-formal affair, hosted by the BEACON Senior Newspaper and Hilltop Senior Living Communities, will be on Saturday, February 11, from 7:30-10:30 p.m. in the Garden Room at The Commons of Hilltop, 625 27 1/2 Road in Grand Junction.
An evening with friends, food, drinks, a photo booth and live dance music from an authentic big band, it’s no wonder that the Valentine’s Dance is the top choice for the area’s mature adults to celebrate love in all forms.
An unforgettable evening
The dance was conceptualized more than four years ago by BEACON Publisher Kevin VanGundy after years of listening to BEACON readers commenting about how difficult it was to meet people and find love as they grew older. He also knew of other senior publications that held dances in bigger cities across the country and wondered if they could be replicated in Grand Junction.
“In Arizona and Florida, these dances were well attended, so I wanted to put on a similar event for our readers to see if it would receive the same admiration in Grand Junction,” VanGundy said.
Around that time, he was approached by Mike Green, Hilltop’s marketing and communications director, who mentioned that Hilltop’s senior living communities were looking to create an event that would appeal to community seniors and that could be hosted at The Commons.
“I thought it would be difficult for the BEACON to put on an event of this size by ourselves, so partnering with Hilltop and hosting it at The Commons has turned out to be better than I could have imagined,” VanGundy said.
With Valentine’s Day only a few months away, it was the perfect occasion to host a dance. Over the next few months, VanGundy sought the perfect big band to play—only he wasn’t sure if one existed in the area. It wasn’t long before a mutual acquaintance put him in touch with Clark Gault, a local musician and leader of the Swing City Express, a 12-piece big band that plays jazz and dance music.
More than 200 people attended the dance in its first year and attendance has been consistent since.
“What has surprised me is seeing how much fun people have,” VanGundy said. “People enjoy the food and drink, they dance, they socialize—and the fact that we have a big band that plays dance music is really the icing on the cake.”
A dance for all!
The Valentine’s Dance is intended for people 55 and older, but younger folks are welcome to attend as well. Dancers of all ages can be seen gliding across a real wooden dance floor.
“People love the music, food and dancing,” Green said. “The dance floor is full from the band’s first number to its last.”
Even if you don’t dance, this event makes fellowship with other seniors easy, with plenty of tables and chairs to sit and visit while sipping on a cold drink from the bar or dining on hors d’oeuvres, sweet treats and other culinary creations made by The Commons’ staff.
“Hosting the dance gives us a chance to reach out to the community and provide an event that is unique,” Green said. “It’s a chance for seniors to socialize and celebrate love at any age and it gives us an opportunity to show off our senior living facility and the amazing food from our kitchens.”
Attendees will be able to check out the newly decorated dining room and lobby at The Commons, which Green said will offer an even more elegant space at this year’s dance.
You don’t have to have a spouse or a date to celebrate love or attend the Valentine’s Dance.
“Bring a date, bring a friend or just bring yourself,” VanGundy said. “It’s a great place to meet people.”
Sylvia Morrison and Darlene Kelley return year after year with a group of friends from their senior apartment complex.
“The hors d’oeuvres are fantastic, the music is great and it’s a ton of fun!” Morrison said. “I love how it’s on Valentine’s Day and I can go out celebrating. It’s the best deal in town.”
Although Kelley isn’t able to dance like she used to, she said she likes to socialize and listen to the music.
“It’s also fun to watch the people and the professional dancers on the dance floor,” she said.
Morrison dances every chance she gets.
“You don’t need a date to have fun!” she said. “If push comes to shove, you can always ask someone to dance.”
Big band melodies
“The music is my favorite part of the evening,” Green said. “Clark Gault’s Swing City Express is a first-class orchestra that keeps everyone dancing throughout the evening.”
The Swing City Express has played in many venues across the Western Slope since 1996, and has played at numerous community events, including symphony galas, summer concerts and festivals. The band is comprised of local musicians who also perform for the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra, Rockestra, Western Colorado Jazz Orchestra and musicals at Colorado Mesa University.
Gault writes the music and has arranged more than 500 pieces for eight musicians. Then he adds the other four parts as needed, so the band can entertain for any occasion, including the Valentine’s Dance.
“The Valentine’s Dance allows us to present the best version [of the band] we have,” Gault said, noting that the band will be performing with all 12 parts.
New this year
For its fourth year, the dance will feature new cuisine, fresh musical arrangements and new faces, including Scott and Alice Betts, a competitive dancing duo who will give a special tango performance on the dance floor.
“Scott is also an amazing vocalist and accomplished musician. He’ll be playing along with the Swing City Express throughout the night,” VanGundy said. “We’ll also have several dance hosts on hand to help the shy-at-heart get their groove on.”
Green said the event proves to be successful every year and it has become very popular in the community.
“There’s nothing else like it in the valley,” he said. “It has become something people talk about and look forward to each year.”
Tickets are available in advance for only $20 per person—a sweet deal, especially since each ticket includes two drinks from the bar. Call the BEACON Senior Newspaper at 970-243-8829 to get your tickets today. ν