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Hangar dance to be held June 13

This photo shows James Pipo at the Alexandria Airport.

The Alexandria Airport will be the hub of this summer's biggest local social event, when the Douglas County Historical Society sponsors a World War II themed "hanger dance" on Saturday, June 13.

Even if you don't dance, there will be big band music for your enjoyment, as Doc's All Stars provide music and entertainment for all. The World War II theme is especially appropriate when looking back on airport history.

In the 1920s the airport was really just a grass strip runway located on "Raiters Pasture," close to where today's airport is located.

In the 1930s a piece of land called "Kiepes Field" southeast of Alexandria was used. Airport progress included the construction of a 16-foot by 20-foot building with 8-inch sidewalks and a coal furnace for heat in September of 1932.

A 50-foot by 50-foot hanger was built in1934. (The hanger was purchased and erected by Philip Noonan, owner of the North American Creamery, then the largest business in the city.)

Pilots returned to Raiters Pasture as their airstrip during the 1940s. It was here that the U.S. Weather Bureau built a weather station.

An airport grand opening with its first fly-in breakfast was held on Memorial Day, 1944. There was a parade, "formation flying" and Civil Air Patrol Army planes on display.

The airport really came into its own when it was taken over by the Civil Aeronautics Administration under the national defense program in November of 1944. The city agreed to provide the land, also to maintain and operate the airport unless it was needed for military purposes.

The government agreed to the planning and construction of the new runways. For two years, the airport was mainly used by the Army Air Force and the Air Force Ferry Command to refuel military aircraft en route from aircraft factories located in central U.S. to Alaska.

Many warplanes were sent on to the Soviet Union for the lend-lease war equipment program. The agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration expired in 1963.

The airport again experienced rejuvenation in 1962 with the arrival of Harold Chandler, the new airport manager, and his wife, Edith, office manager.

Within a year the airport became a full service operation offering charter service, flight instruction, repair and maintenance. Just two years later, Harold was named Minnesota Airport Manager of the Year.

In 1973, the Chandlers retired and management was taken over by Alexandria Aviation. In 1978, the municipal airport was renamed Chandler Field in honor of the Chandlers.

Chandler Field's most recent improvement, a beautiful airport terminal, was opened in 1991. The airport continues to be a major factor in the growth of Alexandria businesses and its tourist industry.

On Saturday, June 13, the Alexandria American Legion Post #87 will host a waffle feed in the morning and the Douglas County Historical Society will host a fundraising event - its first WWII themed Hangar Dance - in the evening. Advance tickets are $15 and are currently available at Pete's County Market, Bremer Bank (downtown) and the historical society. Watch the Echo Press for more details as the event draws near.