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Mason City High School marching band

As is tradition, the Mason City High School Marching Band heads Band Festival Parade up with its rendition of the Meredith Willson classic "76 Trombones."

The annual North Iowa Band Festival parade is steeped in tradition.

For 81 years now, people have come to downtown Mason City for the festival and have enjoyed the parade throughout the years, listening to area bands perform and checking out the eclectic mix of entries that reach 120-plus this year. 

The tradition was evident Saturday morning along the parade route, starting at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Third Street Northeast and making its way to the high school via State Street.

Pep talk

The Mason City High School dance team, called the Mohawk Danzers, huddle up for a final pep talk before the parade begins.

As the Mason City High School Band and dance team started to assemble minutes before the parade, the newly picked Mohawk Danzers huddled to give one final pep talk before they embarked.

The Danzer tradition was evident as the team chose to wear the "old-school" uniforms other teams have been wearing for 20-plus years.

Brenda Zimmerman, in her 10th year as the Mohawk Danzer coach, said the parade is one of the biggest traditions for the team and they look forward to it each year.

Saturday's parade was the team's first performance.

"They wanted to wear the old-fashioned, classic uniforms because of the tradition," said Zimmerman, noted the team has new uniforms. "These uniforms are 20-plus years old. My daughter wore these when she was on the team."

He had one job

Parade monitor Devin Lawson has his finger on the pulse of the annual North Iowa Band Festival parade.

Parade monitor

Devin Lawson has one job on parade day. The Mason City parade monitor keeps things "condensed" and moving.

The Mason City man has one job during the approximately 1 1/2-hour parade: slowing down or quickening the pace of the individual entries so the spacing is correct.

It comes naturally," Lawson said. "I keep everything condensed."

Location, location, location

George Riesen moved into her house in the 600 block of State Street the day before the 2002 Iowa Band Festival parade. 

She so enjoyed watching the annual event from her porch, she invited friends to come and watch the next year and it has turned into a shin-dig for about 50-60 people each year.

Location, location, location

George Riesen has been hosting a potluck for friends at her house along the parade route on State Street since 2002. 

"One year we had 120 people over for the potluck and to watch the parade," she said. "We decided we were going to have a party every year. The invitation is a standing invite and we have a good time each year."

Riesen's friend Jackie Armstrong, who was sitting next to her on the boulevard as the parade approached Saturday, said George and Bill (George's husband) have "great big hearts."

"They make everybody feel welcome," she said.

A few houses down, multiple canopies could be seen protecting a spread of food and drinks.

Intimate gathering

Tim Dettmer has had many friends over to his house each parade day for the past 14 years. The party has grown to close to 150 people.

This party was hosted by Tim Dettmer for about 150 of his closest friends. Each year since the Dettmers moved in 14 years ago, the party has continued to grow.

"It's a great reason to live on this street," he said.

This year, Dettmer's wife decided to ask people who attend for donations, which will go directly to the North Iowa Discover Center in the Southbridge Mall.

New digs, new tradition

Farther down State Street, Kenneth Kleven and his wife Joyce finally slept in the house they had just purchased the night before Saturday's parade. 

Kleven said he has lived in North Iowa most of his life and was thrilled to move into a house along the parade route to see the tradition continue.

As an eighth-grader, Kleven said he remembers marching with the John Adams Junior High School band in the first parade Meredith Willson led.

"They premiered the movie right after the parade," he said. "We were the very last band in the parade."

Kleven's wife Joyce said buying the house along the parade route played into their decision. 

"We both knew about the place for a long time," she said. "We were fortunate this place was available."

For a good cause

The First Christian Church women's group has two events each year to raise money for local outreach.

Selling food, dessert and drinks during the parade is the biggest and has been going on for more than 20 years.

For a good cause

The women's group from First Christian Church sell food and drinks to parade-goers each year as one of their two main fundraisers.

"People continue to come back," said volunteer Sue Chapin, who was selling goods under a canopy near East Park. "This is still a great location because it's near the end of the parade route. When the festival was in East park, we raised a lot more money because we could stay open longer."

Each year, the women's group at First Christian Church raises about $1,000 with both fundraisers.

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Jerry Smith is Special Projects Editor for the Globe Gazette. He can be reached at 641-421-0556.

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