2006-06-02 / Community

RTC's USO Show Highlight Of FBF Anniversary

Rockaway Theater Company dancers perform a tap dancing routine. Rockaway Theater Company dancers perform a tap dancing routine. The Empire State Building was not the only New York City landmark to celebrate its 75th birthday this past May. Historic Floyd Bennett Field, located right over the Marine Parkway Bridge, also bears this exciting distinction and the National Park Service provided ten days of activity to mark the occasion. Floyd Bennett Field was New York's first municipal airport for recordbreaking flights during the pioneering days of aviation. Some famous aviators making local and trans-Atlantic flights either beginning or ending at Floyd Bennett Field were Wiley Post, Roscoe Turner, Howard Hughes, Jacqueline Cochran, Amy Mollison, Wrongway Corrigan, and Amelia Earhart. The field later became one of the country's most important naval air stations.

Today Floyd Bennett Field is under the provinces of the National Park Service-Gateway National Recreation Area, and the momentous birthday celebration was marked by ten days of festivities. Among the activities taking place between May 15 and May 25 were historic aircraft displays, artifact exhibits, a Berlin airlift candy drop and perhaps, most exciting of all, an old fashioned USO type show presented on May 19 at the Ryan Visitor's Center by the Rockaway Theatre Company.

Uncle Walt and the Jewels provided Big Band music. Uncle Walt and the Jewels provided Big Band music. Ranger John Daskalakis, who was in charge of this activity, reached out The RTC, and with a little help from their friends, an evening of entertainment and refreshments were provided free of charge to the entire community. Walt and the Jewels, a terrific 16-piece band conducted by RTC's own Walter Birkhold, rocked the house all night with nostalgic big band sounds and got everyone up dancing with the help of Ellen Connelly of the Connelly Dance Center, who provided free swing dance instruction to the entire audience. Members of the Connelly Dance Center dazzled spectators with a tap routine to "Anchor's Aweigh." The RTC dancers were also on hand performing both tap and swing routines, choreographed by Nicola Depierro. Amanda Millwater and Michelle Micale reprised their "Hero" dance routine, originally dedicated to those who lost their lives on 9/11, but revamped and rededicated to U.S. troops around the world. This lovely classic routine was a sentimental favorite with the audience.

Walt and the Jewels at the USO-style show, celebrating Floyd Bennett Field's 75th Anniversary. Walt and the Jewels at the USO-style show, celebrating Floyd Bennett Field's 75th Anniversary. Dancing was not the only entertainment on hand for the evening. Bernard Smith brought the house down with his rocking version of the Ray Charles classic "Unchain My Heart" accompanied by the big band. Another favorite RTC vocalist, the lovely and talented Nicole Mangano, sang "Dream A Little Dream of Me" and "Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine." The multi-talented Sal Trento sang the great Nat King Cole tune, "Mona Lisa" and, along with fellow thespians Peggy Page, Frank Ciaiti and Nicole Mangano, performed an updated version of the old Abbott and Costello "Niagara Falls" routine which cracked the audience up.

A truly wonderful time was had by all. Ranger Daskalakis would like to thank The Beach Club, The Brooklyn Brewery and Cakeline for donating the refreshments. He also extended special thanks to everyone at the Rockaway Theatre Company for the excellent entertainment served up at this event. The guests offered welldeserved kudos to G.N.R.A. for hosting this fabulous event. Guest Janet Brady, who attended with friend, Eileen Bledsoe, exclaimed, "We had such a great time, we would have gladly paid $50 or more for entertainment of this caliber. It is amazing that something as wonderful as this was provided free of charge." Bledsoe added, "Hopefully they won't wait another 75 years to do this again."

Pictured: Nicole Mangano's voice thrilled the audience at Floyd Bennett Field's USO Show. Pictured: Nicole Mangano's voice thrilled the audience at Floyd Bennett Field's USO Show.

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