As the sun set and a salty sea breeze cooled the evening air, the band launched into another set of beach music while couples spun on the outdoor dance floor.
Lumina Daze, a fundraiser for the Wrightsville Beach Museum, recreates scenes such as these that recall a legendary time in Wrightsville Beach’s history, when every summer night was spent dancing under the stars at Lumina Pavilion.
There are few who really remember that 1930s and ’40s era. Lumina Daze has become a yearly reunion of sorts for those who do remember, and the 2014 event, held Sunday, Aug. 24 at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, was no different.
This year’s event brought together Chip Jordan, Scott McKinnon and Tim Chappel, three friends who grew up in Wrightsville Beach and worked at Upper Deck during the 1960s. Upper Deck was the adjoining establishment to Lumina Pavilion, where guests could listen to music from a jukebox and eat pizza.
“You come down here and see people you don’t see but once a year,” Jordan said. “I see a lot of people I graduated with.”
Jordan, McKinnon and Chappel each recalled different aspects of Lumina Pavilion, where they would spend time before or after working shifts at Upper Deck.
“We used to go over there to skateboard,” Jordan said. “There was just a lot going on. Lots of dating, high school and a little bit above high school. … Nobody ever got out of hand very much, and it was just a good place to be.”
McKinnon remembered renting surf mats from the Lumina as well as roller skating around the dance floor with friends from junior high school.
The most vivid memory for all three was live music and dancing at Lumina Pavilion. McKinnon said Lumina had the first scientifically designed band shell on the East Coast, one of the reasons so many well-known bands played there.
“Every big band — like we had Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller — every one of them played at the Lumina at some point in time in the ’20s and ’30s,” McKinnon said.
It was this atmosphere the Lumina Daze celebration attempted to recreate, with The Wilmington Big Band orchestra, The Imitations and The Dixieland All-Stars all performing in different areas throughout the Blockade Runner Beach Resort.
The night also featured silent and live auctions. Madeline Flagler, Wrightsville Beach Museum executive director, said the 2014 event likely raised more money than any other recent years.
“This year we sold a minimum of 350 tickets before the event,” Flagler said. “The silent auction items last year we had 70, and we had over 100 this year. The live auction, I think we had 11 or 12 pieces, last year we had eight. I mean, look at all the people out there! I think this is the year that it has really come together.”
As the evening light faded, guests lingered on the dance floor or sat around tables, reminiscing about good times shared in Wrightsville Beach over the years. As Susan Collins mingled with friends, she explained that for her neighborhood, Lumina Daze had become a yearly tradition.
“We always try to gather up the people on our block, near the Oceanic,” Collins said. “We bring the people that didn’t grow up here, and also some that did. There are three couples that live on our block that we went to high school with.”
As McKinnon stood near the dance floor with Jordan and Chappell, he acknowledged that nothing would ever be able to truly replicate the days of Lumina Pavilion. However, Lumina Daze did provide an opportunity for the three friends to reunite and share plenty of laughs about their time spent at Lumina, an era Chappell could sum up with only one word.
“Memories,” he said with a smile.