Dancing to the Big Band Bash

PHOTO: T.A. Graydon- NewsPlus

Dance Instructors Mark and Tricia Opdahl get the dancing started.

It was dinner and dancing room only on Saturday evening, April 22, 2023, at Wrightwood Place. “The Big Band Bash,” presented by the Wrightwood Property Owners Association, would benefit the Village Trail, with proceeds going to maintenance and repair of the popular thoroughfare damaged from the recent storms. The event featuring the “KupkaSonic Dance Orchestra” was sold out, filling the forest-lined parking area quickly. The aroma of “The Wrightwood Brewing Co.” catered Tri-Tip Dinner was teasing the tastebuds of the anxious concertgoers, ready for an evening of “Big Band” music and dancing. The picturesque setting of Wrightwood Place is always worth mentioning, as it complements the artists and occasions that frequent here. With the show fulfilling its financial responsibilities, event coordinator Rita Bemis had this to say, “I just hope everyone has a wonderful, wonderful time!”

The Wrightwood Brewing Company cooks-up some Tri-Tip on the Bar-B-Que.

As the chefs tended the big black bar-b-que full of smoking good Tri-Tips, the parking area was being managed expertly by the friendly Event Security Staff who mentioned their delight in working there. “This is a great venue to work,” said one guard directing traffic on this soon-to-be moonlit night. The reception area was jammed with familiar faces saying hello from a lengthy separation or guests meeting new neighbors. Many opted for the Tri-Tip, enjoying their meal while eagerly awaiting the show to begin. The subtle squeaks and tweaks of a well-polished orchestra warming up was a pleasant prelude to the 20-piece ensemble, which was about to fire up the hall in grand fashion. As the soundcheck progressed, some guests admired the showcase of quilts and silent auction baskets. Hand-made quilted hearts, made specifically for the Big Band Bash, could be purchased with proceeds going to the Village Trail. The dinner tables were also decorated with these music-themed hearts, adding to the musical motif, with sheet music and “Big Band Trivia” game cards for all to enjoy at intermission.

Singers Wanda Ray Willis and Wrightwood’s’ own Bonnie Bishop warm up with Master of Ceremonies Wrightwood Property Owners Association President John Kozyra on stage preparing his announcements.

With dinner now a thing of the past, the name of the game was to grab a delicious brownie, get a drink from the lobby, and get to your seat before Craig Kupka and the “Big Band” (twenty-some pieces) took the stage. Master of Ceremonies John Kozyra, President of the WPOA, briefly thanked the audience for their contribution to the Village Trail and turned the show over to Craig Kupka and the “KupkaSonic Dance Orchestra” who promptly opened with Glenn Miller’s “Tuxedo Junction.” The Big Band Era was celebrated with 1930 and 40’s Hits like “In The Mood” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing” by Big Band legends Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. Band Leader Craig Kupka, who promised to make this a yearly event, stated proudly, “We had everybody dancing by the end of the night!” The performance for some of the audience must have been a trip down memory lane, with songs like “Moonlight Serenade” and “Sentimental Journey” pulling at the heartstrings of many in the crowd. The KupkaSonic Dance Orchestra performed brilliantly all night with special vocal performances by lovely singers Wanda Ray Willis and Wrightwood’s own Bonnie Bishop.

Craig Krupka and the “KupkaSonic Dance Orchestra” swooned the audience at “The Big Band Bash”. Lower right is his signature white top hat.

The ingredients for a successful fund-raiser were present at Wrightwood Place that Saturday night. One of the younger audience members, “Bricio,” said excitedly, “I love the Big Bands!” You don’t have to be over fifty to appreciate quality big-band music at its best. The congratulatory comment to the “Big Band Trivia” contest winner read, “Your soul is old enough to know the Big Bands and your memory is young enough to remember them!” And dancing? Most everybody loves to dance, and it’s fun watching too.

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