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Watford native uses hobby to create commemorative guitar

Posted 8/05/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

A hobby is a great way to relax and take a little time to enjoy life, but for Watford City native Dan Wagner, his hobby led to much more.
Wagner creates original functional works of art.  The works are created for organizations and people that have made a significant difference in someone else’s life.  Each work carries a story of its own.  In the case of his most recent project, The Red Tail Guitar, the story incorporates equality, hope and the American dream.
“When you look at equality it really goes back to World War II and the Tuskegee Airman,” adds Wagner. “This is why I chose the Red Tail Project as my focus for this project.”
The Red Tail Guitar was created specifically to raise money for the Young Eagles youth program.  The Young Eagles Program promotes aviation to young people.  It is a program that encourages a higher degree of learning in that it creates opportunities for kids to have hands-on experiences in aviation.
Kids eight to17 years old can contact their local airport to see if there is a pilot that supports the program.  The kid is provided a first flight and explanation of how an airplane works for free.  If they love the experience there are avenues for free online education for these kids through www.youngeagles.org. There are also scholarships available.
“I wanted to raise awareness and money for the Young Eagles Program, because it gives kids a way to experience a dream,” adds Wagner. “They are a great organization that promotes aviation and technology through real-life experiences. The program encourages a higher degree of learning and offers a wonderful opportunity to many kids.”
The theme of the Red Tail Guitar honors the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American fighter pilots that flew in World War II. Their story was just about lost in history until a group of men and women from the Commemorative Air Force decided to build and dedicate a World War II P-51 Fighter named Tuskegee Airmen to tell the story of the Tuskegee Experiment. The plane was flown around the country to educate young people until 2004 when engine failure caused the plane to crash, killing the pilot.
“The pilot of this plane was a man who believed in equality and he died promoting it,” says Wagner. “I learned that the plane was being restored in North Dakota so I decided to use a piece of it for the guitar. I made the pick-guard from part of this plane to represent the heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen as well as those who are passionate about telling their story.”
In designing the Red Tail Guitar he wanted everything about the guitar to mean something.
The guitar is made out of aromatic red cedar because when American pioneers first moved west they carried their most prized items in a hope chest made of aromatic red cedar to protect the items inside.  There are buffalo horns built into it because the buffalo was very significant to the success of the new world.
The guitar not only gave Wagner an opportunity to help an organization that he feels strongly about, it also gave him the opportunity to meet many people and be a part of the auction.
During the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Gathering of Eagles, a fundraiser held during the AirVenture aviation convention in Oshkosh, Wis. he was given the privilege of playing the guitar for one last time before it was auctioned off.
“I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Aaron Tippen and perform with him during the auction,” says Wagner. “I also met Captain Sully who safely landed a plane in the Hudson and several other aviation icons.”
Wagner’s Red Tail Guitar was part of the auction’s top 12 items and was placed on the auction bill between a one-of-a-kind Mustang built by Ford specifically for the auction and American Idol.
“I am proud to have been a part of this auction, especially to have the guitar placed in the top 12,” adds Wagner. “The guitar was auction edoff for $5,000. Through the Young Eagles, the proceeds will help 500 kids.”