Veronica Stumpf is a few years outside the typical demographic range for the Sounds of the Mardi Gras Festival.
At 26, the real estate broker is decades younger than most of those at the annual music festival, happening through Feb. 11 at Double Tree Hotel in downtown Fresno. She has attended the festival the past four years and will perform Friday night with the Fresno Swing Dance group.
“The organizers have done a great job including the local (and younger) swing dance scene. A time block on Friday is devoted to all things swing music and swing dancing,” Stumpf says.
“They’re even letting people 30 years and younger to attend the entire festival for free.”
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The Fresno Dixieland Society has run the festival for 34 years. It’s what Stumpf calls, unofficially, the largest jazz festival in the Central Valley. It’s three days of live Dixieland, New Orleans, traditional, hot club and swing music.
There are 18 bands playing over the three days in four rooms at the hotel. There’s a dance floor in each room.
“So you’re bound to see people dancing the entire weekend,” Stumpf says.
That’s regardless of age.
“My favorite part about the festival is seeing people well into their 80s and 90s full of energy and dancing. There’s even one dancer who’s 100 years old. Interacting with them is a constant reminder not to take life too seriously and dance your stress away.”
Here, Stumpf explains how YouTube got her hooked on swing dancing and how she’s totally not alone.
So, is swing dancing/music seeing a resurgence among the younger set (again)?
Most definitely. The Gap swing dance commercial (aka Khaki Swing) and movies like “Swing Kids” reintroduced swing dancing into pop culture. That was a major resurgence of swing dancing among younger people. Today, there are pockets of large swing dance communities in metropolitans throughout the entire world where people can dance every night of the week. Fresno has a growing swing dance scene. Our weekly lessons/social dance on Tuesday pulls in 50-70 people. A bulk of our community members are college students to mid-30s.
How did you get into swing dancing?
In high school, I loved watching YouTube videos of WWII-era movie clips. Most notably, I would watch The Andrews Sisters in “Buck Privates” and the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in “Hellazpoppin.” I remember thinking, “I want to learn that dancing.” But I thought nobody danced like that anymore. Little did I know the resurgence of swing dance had taken place over 10 years ago. It wasn’t until I graduated from college, and started about blogging about Fresno, that I heard about Fresno Swing Dance. Within a few days, I attended their weekly beginner lessons. It was not easy for me at all, but the friendliness of the community kept me coming back.
What is Fresno Swing Dance?
Fresno Swing Dance is a loose affiliation of people who spread the joy of dance and music by getting together to dance, organize events, and help other groups that have similar goals. We have weekly lessons and social dance every Tuesday at Cal Arts Academy. We have three concurring lessons that starts at 7:15 p.m. – drop-in East Coast swing, beginner lindy hop and intermediate lindy hop. No partners are required. We do performances throughout the Central Valley. We also dance at the Cultural Arts Park during Art Hop.