First annual Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival set for Saturday

High school marching bands will hit the streets of downtown Owatonna – literally – on Saturday, June 19, in the first annual Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival.

The first band will kick off the competitive parade at 11 a.m. Beginning at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and South Street, the parade will follow Lincoln north, then turn west onto E. Main Street, where it will conclude at Central Park. Marching bands from southern Minnesota high schools currently registered include the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (KMS) Marching Saints; the New Richland, Hartland, Ellendale and Geneva (NRHEG) Panther Marching Band; the Lake City Tiger Band; the Winona Cotter Marching Band; the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Marching Cougars; the Waconia High School Marching Band; the Spring Lake Park Marching Band; and the Henry Sibley Marching Band. Marching in exhibition will be the Owatonna High School Marching Band.

OHS band director Peter Guenther said the Owatonna community is “in for a real treat,” as the street-competition format, without floats, is “uniquely Minnesota.” All bands will perform through three “playing zones” on the nearly one-mile parade route. And with the exception of the Owatonna High School band, all bands will be judged by members of the Tri-State Judging Association as they make their way to the third and final playing zone. This judged performance area will be at the corner of E. Main Street and N. Elm Avenue. Guenther said this is the point where the bands will “pull out all the stops.” An awards ceremony in Central Park will immediately follow the parade.

The pageantry and music of marching bands will fill the streets of downtown Owatonna on Saturday, June 19.

The pageantry and music of marching bands will fill the streets of downtown Owatonna on Saturday, June 19.

A marching band, Guenther explained, is “a highly technical machine” of many parts: 1) the frontline, which includes the honor guard (banner carriers) and the color guard, which marches with various equipment such as flags, rifles and sabers; 2) the horn line, comprised of woodwinds and brass instruments; and 3) two percussion sections: the battery, consisting of snares, tenors, bass drums and cymbals; and auxiliary percussion, consisting of mallet instruments, assorted trap percussion and often ethnic instruments such as congas and timbales. The end result of a well-practiced marching band is a spectacle of precision, musical talent and showmanship.

The marching band festival is a Music In Owatonna-sponsored event. The organization brings top-quality musical experiences to the community of Owatonna every two years. Past themes have included jazz and blues music, traditional Irish performers and The Minnesota Orchestra. MIO will return to its traditional format again in 2012.

This year, to commemorate the 20thanniversary of producing musical events for the cultural and educational enhancement of the Owatonna area, MIO is honored to support this festival named to honor MIO co-founder Harry Wenger. Wenger’s inventive skills in music equipment made him legendary. Though he taught music at Owatonna High School from 1936 to 1946, he is more widely known as the founder of Wenger Corp., the world's leading manufacturer of music education and performing arts equipment. Festival Director Kim Cosens hopes to “pay tribute to Wenger as well as provide a top-quality musical experience for students in marching ensembles throughout Minnesota for years to come.”

In addition to a generous gift from the Wenger Foundation, corporate sponsorship is being solicited to help support the event. MIO will follow its previous history of working with its individual patron gifts and in-kind support to help this first annual event be a success. Contact Kim Cosens, HWMBF executive director, for more information. To volunteer, contact festival volunteer coordinator Michele Rysavy.

For more detailed information on the first annual Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival, visit the festival website.