Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

People-watching at a Minnesota State Band concert July 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:19 PM
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WHENEVER I ATTEND A CONCERT, I tend to people-watch as much as I musician-listen.

Take Thursday evening when my husband and I arrived more than a half hour late for an outdoor performance by the Minnesota State Band in Faribault’s Central Park. I immediately noticed our friend Howard dozing in a lawn chair next to a tree next to the drinking fountain.

Randy and I exchanged smirks as we walked by and later, when Howard opened his eyes, my husband greeted him with a cheery “Good morning!” Our friend, who also happens to be a distant relative, claims he wasn’t sleeping, just resting his eyes. Uh huh.

Then I observed the guy lounging sideways on the grass, belly hanging out of his red t-shirt. Yeah, well, that was more like a quick glance, turn-away-the-head type of look.

I wondered about the woman wearing pants topped by a long sleeve shirt topped by a short sleeve shirt. Wasn’t she hot in pants and double layers on this warm, breezeless summer night?

But mostly, I like to watch the kids because they are, for lack of a better word, cute. They dance. They frolic. They sway, uninhibited, to the music. While I didn’t see any dancing kids at this concert, I have in the past. Just watching them makes me smile, makes me happy.

At this concert, I had to settle for observing a fair-haired toddler who, hands clenched by older siblings (or maybe cousins or neighbors) walked back and forth along the sidewalk, occasionally straying to the grass. He was just too cute.

Lest you think I ignored the music, you would be wrong. Randy and I listened to exactly four songs performed by the Minnesota State Band (remember, we arrived late), which I had to research afterward because I’d never heard of the group. They are, according to the band Web site, the official band of the state of Minnesota. In existence since 1898, this non-profit is comprised of volunteers and is the only remaining state band in the United States.

I’m no music person, meaning if a band misses notes or isn’t quite in sync, I typically won’t notice. Howard told us later that the band’s lack of joint practice, as noted by the director, showed a few times. The musicians fooled me because I thought the songs sounded just fine.

We listened to a march, then the melancholy Irish melody, “Danny Boy,” then another song I don’t recall and, finally, a familiar, inspiring patriotic march that I only could place as a John Philip Sousa piece.

“What’s that song? I know that song,” I whispered to Randy as my flip-flopped foot flip-flopped back and forth to the tempo of the music.

“They play it on the Fourth of July,” he answered. “Ask Howard, he’ll know.”

And, indeed, our friend knew that the Minnesota State Band, on this perfect summer evening in the heart of a mid-sized Minnesota community, had performed “Stars and Stripes Forever” before an appreciative and alert (well, mostly alert) crowd.


THE MINNESOTA STATE BAND returns to the Faribault area on Sunday, August 8, when they will present two concerts at the Vintage Band Music Festival in neighboring Northfield.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling