This is a big weekend in Luverne.
Sure, there have been a lot of "big" events in Luverne this summer. Buffalo Days, Fourth of July at The Lake, Hot Dog Night, the county fair, a beer fest, and other events have given local residents plenty to do.
But this weekend is the Tri-State Band Festival, the 66th annual festival in fact, which means it's been around longer than all but one of the events listed above.
Tri-State is the "granddaddy" of local festivals as far as I'm concerned.
I'm not that old, but I'm old enough to remember a time when there were far fewer big events in Luverne and far fewer band festivals in other cities. That means that Tri-State was a big deal in my hometown when I was growing up.
As the story goes, in 1951 a group of Luverne businessmen came up with the idea of hosting an annual competitive festival for high school bands in order to bring people to the community.
It was one of the first band festivals in the Midwest, if not the first. The idea was a good one and the festival obviously became a success.
In the early days, the parade went "backwards" down Main Street and the field competition was held in the infield of the racetrack at the fairgrounds.
While I'm too young to remember the bands marching from east to west, I do have many memories of what I consider the "glory days" of Tri-State in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
In those days, many of the best bands in the region from places like Sioux Falls Lincoln, Marshall, Maurice-Orange City, Waseca and the Twin Cities competed in Luverne. They often marched here just months before performing at the Rose Bowl or Macy's Thanksgiving Day parades.
Pipestone's band was large and impressive back then. I still remember the first time they pushed that big sign on wheels down Main Street. And who can forget Orange City's band marching in their wooden shoes and full Dutch costumes playing "Championship" year after year?
Guest bands from the military, universities and even Saskatchewan came to town. I remember when the Canadians stayed in the small gym the night before the festival and I thought it was cool to have young people from a foreign country at our school.
Like so many good ideas, eventually Luverne's idea was adopted (or stolen?) by other communities. At first, competing festivals were scheduled for other fall Saturdays. The last Saturday in September was sacred, reserved for Tri-State, the granddaddy of them all.
That changed a number of years ago. This Saturday there will be band festivals in Sioux City and the Twin Cities on the same day as Tri-State.
Some of the big bands will be competing in those larger communities closer to home instead of coming to Luverne.
Sure, some things have changed when it comes to Tri-State, but many things are still the same. Dedicated young band members will make music together as they march in step down the street and across the field.
Just like 66 years ago, local volunteers still work hard to create a memorable and educational day for students from three states.
Thousands of parents and fans will come to Luverne. They will notice a clean community making many improvements throughout town, thanks to the efforts of progressive local leaders like those who first created our festival many years ago.
I hope everyone enjoys the granddaddy of Midwest band festivals this Saturday.
A big shoutout the 'granddaddy' of band festivals
This is a big weekend in Luverne.