Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Dapper Day at Farmers Market: A Historic Day in Downtown Los Angeles

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People come from around the world to Los Angeles in search of one thing: Hollywood glamour. The modern film industry certainly doesn’t offer it, and most of the old Hollywood hotspots have been tarnished by encroaching technology. However, on Aug. 11, visitors to the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax were transported to the past at the Dapper Day Summer Soiree.

Dapper Day is a company which has arranged stylish outings to Disney theme parks for ten years. It started in Southern California’s Disneyland in 2011, but the custom has since spread to Disney World and Disneyland Paris. Twice a year, attendants can “step out in style” at the happiest place on earth, shop at an expo of vintage and retro vendors at the Disneyland Hotel, and dance to live swing bands. The event usually takes place in spring and fall, and it’s very popular.

The Summer Soiree was the first Southern California get-together Dapper Day has hosted outside of Disneyland in years. The Original Farmers Market was a great location, since its large outdoor area of tables, restaurants, and food stands has remained very similar since its opening in July 1934. The storied history made it the perfect background for the afternoon and evening of live swing music and dancing with summery retro and vintage fashions being sold and worn.

Epoch Times Photo
The Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles on Aug. 11, 2022. (Courtesy of Tiffany Brannan)

A Fun Event

If you’ve ever been to The Original Farmers Market, you know that it’s a place like no other. There are places to buy every type of food you could want, plus gift shops and produce carts. Not everyone knows about the upstairs dining deck, which is sometimes reserved for meetings and special events but otherwise is haunted by employees on lunch breaks. This charming covered deck was reserved for Dapper Day eventgoers from noon onward.

At 2 p.m., the Dapper Day kiosk opened, offering attendees free pins and selling retro clothing and accessories in themed patterns, which are always available for purchase online. Many people gratefully purchased colorful paper fans to keep cool between dances on the hot summer evening.

I got there around 5 p.m., and things were pretty slow. The band was setting up, preparing to play in an hour. After getting my event pin from the Dapper Day kiosk and buying some food, I went to the upstairs dining deck. It was charmingly peaceful up there, with a beautiful breeze blowing through the open windows. Looking down at the historic clock tower, in front of which the band was setting up, I could see more and more people arriving and filling the chairs which were set up in front of the bandstand. Although the event was scheduled for all day, it really began at 6 p.m., since most people came for the dancing.

At 6 p.m., Jumpin’ Joz began playing. Self-described as “the hottest band for swing music and dance in Southern California,” this five-piece combo set up their instruments on a small bandstand in front of the Farmers Market’s famous clocktower. For two hours, they played an entertaining mix of 1940s-1950s jazz, big band, swing, and early rock and roll music, including classics like “Whatcha Know, Joe?”, “There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” and “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” People of all ages and backgrounds gathered by the bandstand to cut a rug. Some of the guests were young vintage enthusiasts who jump at any chance to swing dance, while others were older folks who probably attend many of the Original Farmers Market’s live music events on Thursday evenings during the summer. As usual at these events, there were more ladies than gentlemen, but everyone with itchy feet got a chance to truck on down.

Epoch Times Photo
Visitors at the Dapper Day Summer Soiree at the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles on Aug. 11, 2022. (Courtesy of Tiffany Brannan)

A Forgotten Hobby

Ballroom dancing as a recreational pastime is truly a lost art. The last generation who enjoyed dancing in couples was people in their teenage years in the 1950s or early 60s, but their children preferred the twist and disco, and their grandchildren ended up foregoing any formal dance style altogether. However, the art of swing dancing has not been completely lost since the 1950s. It has experienced resurgences over the years, and it now has a growing fanbase amongst those interested in what some call counterculture. The counterculture of today often consists of a unique aesthetic trend that evokes the early to mid-20th century, particularly the 1950s. Counterculture enthusiasts often love the fashion, music, films, décor, architecture, automobiles, and dancing of earlier eras. Some adherents incorporate the style into their daily lives, through antique or retro clothing and houseware, while others reserve the hobby for events and festivals.

Since the internet has made information and imagery from the past readily available, many younger people are discovering the vintage life and falling in love with it. In response to this growing trend, brands and events catering to retro aesthetics are popping up across the United States and the United Kingdom. Many retro festivals combine classic car shows with live swing music and dancing and the wearing and selling of retro and vintage fashions. (In case you’re getting confused, vintage clothes were actually made in a past era, whereas retro fashion is new items replicating old styles, with varying degrees of accuracy.) Another place you’re bound to find vintage dressers is classic film festivals or individual old movie screenings, although such events rarely cater to the swing dancing, vintage fashion crowd.

In Southern California, particularly the Los Angeles area, there is a thriving counterculture community. Once you get in the loop, you can find enough vintage activities to keep you occupied in all your free time. Dapper Day hosts two trips to Disneyland a year, plus occasional outings to other locations, such as the Summer Soiree. The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles hosts frequent events, often centered around architecture and fashion, such as the Avalon Ball on Catalina Island every May, monthly Cocktails in Historic Places, and an occasional presentation or tour at a significant location. The Cicada Club is a 1930s-style nightclub which offers gourmet food, dancing, and a different live band every weekend evenings, enforcing a strict formal dress code to keep it classy. Besides these, there are many other vintage theaters, night clubs, and restaurants that attract the retro crowd through themed events or their mere historic value, such as the Musso & Frank Grill. After you’ve attended a few of these events or locations, as I have, you’ll start to see the same people, for it’s a very niche, specialized group.

Epoch Times Photo
Visitors at the Dapper Day Summer Soiree at the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles on Aug. 11, 2022. (Courtesy of Tiffany Brannan)

Join the Fun

If you are looking for a new hobby or activity, I highly recommend swing dancing. Getting involved in the vintage movement can be a lot of fun, since it offers activities for a wide variety of interests. Between shopping, automobiles, music, dancing, antiques, and architecture, there truly is something for everyone. Extended families, friends, and couples can enjoy spending time together while exploring themed events and destinations.

A great way to see if you like the vintage scene is by going to an event like the Dapper Day Summer Soiree. You might find your first retro or vintage piece to start your new fashion collection. You can enjoy listening to the music and watching the dancing, which is a great way to learn how to dance yourself! These events always attract experienced dancers, who are happy to dance with newcomers, no matter how inexperienced. Many events include a short class beforehand on the dances to be featured. Dancing is not only a lot of fun and great exercise but also a wonderful way to meet new people or rekindle the romance with your spouse!

It’s wonderful that organizations like Dapper Day are providing such inviting free events to encourage people to join in the fun! If you live in California or Florida, visit the Dapper Day website to find out how you can attend one of their Fall Outings to Disneyland/Disney World or another upcoming event. No matter where you live, you can do some online scouting about swing dancing clubs, studios, restaurants, and events in your area. You’ll be surprised what you find! Once you discover your niche and make a few friends, you’ll never want to stop dancing in style!

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Tiffany Brannan

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Tiffany Brannan is a 21-year-old opera singer, Hollywood historian, interviewer, copywriter, fashion historian, travel writer, and vintage lifestyle enthusiast. In 2016, she and her sister founded the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, an organization dedicated to reforming the arts by reinstating the Motion Picture Production Code.

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