Big band sound hits a high note

STORY from MAINSTREAMS - August 2000

103 Betty and Larry Thomas 186 - Larry & Betty home RT: Betty and
Larry Thomas
treated their
friends to an
dance under the stars at their rural home.

Discovering dancing has
enlivened married life.

Don Helmann, editor

A dance in a ballroom under the stars to the sound of the 17-piece Classic Big Band on July 29 is still the talk of the town.187 the band

Those who attended Betty's garden party at Betty and Larry Thomas' rural Big Lake Township home still are raving about the music.

They danced on a special dance floor in a miniature pavilion built by Larry on the lawn of their home. It was lighted and adorned with flowers.

184 - the dance floorThe band, directed by Dan Odegaard, performed danceable music of the '40s and '50s so expertly, none of the 250 present wanted to leave at 10pm.

The Nostalgics, a vocal quartet, also performed.

The guests even passed the hat and took donations so the band would play for another hour.

178 Nostalgics And they are begging Betty to put on another one. How did such an event come about? Betty and Larry Thomas love to dance.

It is hard to believe that until six years ago, they had never danced together. Then one night at a wedding dance, Larry showed Betty the box step, and they've been dancing ever since to big band tunes.

74 Ruben HaugenTwelve years ago, they became hooked on the big band sound. Now they dance to live big band music every Thursday night at the Wabasha Street Caves and the Richfield Americal Legion Club.

"Rod Smith's Big Band really turned us on...that was a real swing band," said Betty.

She and Larry learned how to dance without lessons, and today those who watch them say they are a talented dancing couple.175 Dave Marvin

"We just feel the music," she said. "We are there for the music."

Soon the bands themselves noticed the graceful couple, and when they heard about the possibility of playing at the Thomas farm, they insisted on coming. Odegaard told Betty, "Sometimes you have to take the music to the people."

189 Larry & Betty 190 Larry & Betty 191 Larry & Betty
Finally, Betty and Larry [above on their special dance floor], who is a musician, agreed and invited all they knew to a musical garden party. Their guests brought lawn chairs and snacks and relived the music of the '40s and '50s. One of the guests, Elaine Anderson, said the crowd cheered and applauded and applauded. "The band and the vocalists were fabulous," she exclaimed. "The music was just excellent."

Betty and Larry were thrilled with the music and the turnout. For them, dancing has been a mid-life saver. Some nights they spend two hours a night, just the two of them, dancing on their special dance floor.

"It's good exercise, and we have quality time with each other." Betty said. "No matter how tired we are, as soon as we hear the music it makes you come alive."
[RT: Betty and Larry at the Lake Harriet Bandshell] [Left: Betty and Larry Thomas dressed to kill for the Classic Big Band USO tour.]
136 - LB  USO tour 13-Larry and Betty Thomas at Lake Harriet
Webmaster notes: Larry and Betty often follow where the big bands go.