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Air Force Hangar Dance Saved By New Sprinklers

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – In a wood hangar, as vintage as its planes, Minnesota’s Commemorative Air Force is keeping history alive.

But the mission of education and preservation doesn’t come cheap.

That’s why twice each year the group will raise money by opening the doors to swing dancers with their big band hangar dances.

Wing Commander Amy Lauria can’t understate their importance.

“They’re our two largest fundraisers we do and it’s a community event,” said Lauria.

But last year, the group was told by the city which owns the building that the dances and public gatherings would have to stop.

The old hangar’s fire sprinkler system was ancient, installed back in 1941, and it wasn’t up to current code.

In fact, the system was disconnected in 1948, and hasn’t worked since.

“It was a safety issue and given the age of our hangar to have functions like dances you have to have a sprinkler system in,” said Lauria.

At an estimated expense of $80,000 to $100,000, the CAF didn’t have the money to do the work.

That’s when two local fire sprinkler companies, Frontier Fire in Little Canada and State Fire and Safety based in Oakdale, stepped in.

The two local firms donated their labor and engineering skills to bring the sprinkler system up to state fire code.

“They had to replace all the sprinkler heads,” said Lauria.

Each one was wrenched off and replaced with new brass heads.

The retrofit also required new water feed supply, new valves and a compressor.

In addition, the systems electronic controls and detection equipment was also replaced.

“They did fantastic work and in an unbelievable time frame as well!” said Lauria.

The work was completed in April, just in time to put on a fresh coat of paint on the office walls as the group prepares for Saturday’s crowds.

With a mission to preserve military aviation history, while having a little fun, the hangar dance will be saved thanks to these generous and skilled hands.

“It’s just overwhelming to see everybody come together and help out so we can continue having our dances,” said Lauria.

The dance will be held Saturday, May 19 with doors opening at 6 p.m.

Swing dancing lessons beginning at 7 p.m.

The hangar is located at the southeast side of Fleming Field in South St. Paul.

Click here for more information.

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