The sun was shining and the skies were clear Saturday morning for the 22nd annual Great American Brass Band Festival parade.
The warm, dry weather was a nice change of pace from previous parades, said Danville resident Linda Knight.
“We always manage to have a little bit of rain or excitement with thunderstorms,” she said. “But people just go put on their ponchos and keep listening.”
Knight would know. She has been to every one of the brass band festivals, but she said that even the rainy years were great experiences.
“I think its a very unique festival,” Knight said. “One of a kind, and we’ve got a beautiful city to show it off in.”
As the crowds began to line the streets in preparation for the parade, Knight noted that the festival isn’t just for the locals.
“That’s another nice thing about it,” she said. “You get to meet so many nice people from out of town.”
Joe McGrogan and his wife Chris McGrogan are one such couple that have come from out of town. The McGrogans traveled around 130 miles from their home in Jamestown, Tenn., after reading about the festival in the newspaper.
“Especially when they said they had bands from New Orleans,” Joe McGrogan said. “We love going down to New Orleans and listening to jazz, but this sounded like something we’d never been to before.”
It was the old style purity of the parade that appealed to Chris McGrogan.
“We came up here because no one has parades like they used to,” she said, “with Shriners and the antique cars.”
The variety of the bands, the entertainment and all of the local flavor have made the festival a fun experience, but the cost has been the cherry on top.
“The fact that everything is free, that makes a heck of a difference,” Joe McGrogan said.
The McGrogans’ trip was long but they were not the furthest traveled audience members.
Cherilyn Tocco drove from Naples, Fla., to visit a friend and see the festival for the first time, and she said she was not dissapointed by any of the bands.
“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “They were all wonderful.”
The parade featured bands ranging from the rigidly traditional 202nd Army Band to the wildly ecclectic styles of the Circle City Sidewalk Stompers Clown Band and the March Madness Marching Band.
This diversity is one of the great draws for the festival, said Ronald Holz, professor of music literature and instrumental music at Asbury University.
“The variety is just incredible,” he said. “What I say is if you don’t like something, 15 minutes later there is another group in a style you might like. Whether it is civil war bands if you want that historical americana, if you want a jazz inflective group, we’ve got that, if you want a symphonic band, we’ve got that, or if you want that British style brass band with great soloists. It’s all here.”
In addition to the bands, there were politicians in their fancy cars, antique automobiles of every type and the Oleika Temple Shriners driving their miniature vehicles.
In addition, the parade was led by the Ohio Wheelmen on their classic bicycles and the contestants of the Lil’ Red Wagon contest with their decorated wagons and kids in crazy costumes.
Nancy Crothers of Louisville said that was the part that appealed to her the most.
“I liked it because it involved the kids,” Crothers said, “Particularly the little wagons that were all dressed up, it was a lot of fun. Family oriented.”
But the best part of the parade was the traditional style that it has, said Louisville resident Kathy Brown.
“I like it better than the big time parades with a lot of floats because it’s got an old time feel to it,” she said.
Brown said of all the bands, though, she liked one of the nontraditional bands the best.
“I liked the March Madness, that was my favorite part of the whole parade,” Brown said. “You could just be yourself and just not care.”
The March Madness Marching Band has no set uniforms, instead dressing themselves with whatever theme they decide upon for a particular event, said Lexington resident Fernie Williams, who plays French horn in the group.
Metallic was the theme this year to go along with the brass, he said, but the group’s clothing ranged from frills to fishnet and from sequines to silk, just depending on what the performers wanted to wear.
Williams said that the group dynamic of the band works well with the high energy pop songs they like to perform, and they all have a good time with performances.
“We got the Big Blue Party Bus and came down as a group,” said Williams. “We made a big trek out of it. It was exciting to spend time together, and we enjoy each other’s company.”
For them, much like the festival as a whole, it is all about having a good time with great music and a few good jokes sprinkled in.
“We’re a drinking band with a marching problem,” Williams said with a grin.