City band a major draw
It doesn’t make any difference what the calendar says; as far as I’m concerned, summer begins at 8:30 p.m. today (Thursday, June 7), when the Bonner Springs City Band starts its first concert of the year.
The local band is a tradition in our community, providing entertainment and activities for residents for eight Thursday nights during the summer and a concert on Friday during Tiblow Days. The free concerts are at the bandstand in Kelly Murphy Park, and in case of inclement weather the concert is moved to Bonner Springs High School.
The band has grown into an area-wide event. Usually there are 70-80 musicians who come from many surrounding communities. There is no doubt that the band’s success was due to the hard work of the late Larry Berg. One of Larry’s achievements was leaving the band in great shape; he groomed the next generation of leadership. He tutored Bill Turley, director, and Aaron Hall, assistant director, to take over. Their efforts and the work of the volunteer band commission made the transition go smoothly.
The band is sponsored by the City of Bonner Springs under the supervision of an appointed band commission, with chairperson Don Wheeler. The band is unique in that it is an “all-comers” group; anyone who plays an instrument can join. It is a great learning experience for younger musicians to play alongside persons who have been playing for years.
The concerts are very well-attended and in some ways they are a throwback to long-gone days. On a pleasant summer night, people will fill the park sitting on blankets, lawn chairs, etc. There is a fundraising ice cream social sponsored by a local group at each concert and a drawing for some small prizes. In general, the concerts last about an hour.
Larry got me involved in 1982 when he asked if I would announce the concert, which was held at South Park, and while I’m not sure, I believe there were more mosquitoes in attendance that fans. Over the years, the program moved to several different locations until the bandstand was built at Kelly Murphy Park. I’ve been involved every year since, except for 2010 when I had a stroke. Jeff Harrington volunteered to step in to announce and did an excellent job. Now, Jeff and I work together, which caused a local wag to suggest we had the “Mutt and Jeff” show.
Bonner Springs has had a community band for about 100 years, though I wasn’t able to find the original date. Community bands trace their origins back to the early part of the 19th century. According to the Kansas Historical Society, in 1883 they listed 40 community bands in communities throughout the state. By the turn of the century, there were bands in many towns and some of the larger cities had more than one community band. Probably the biggest boost came in 1921, when composer Karl King persuaded the Iowa legislature to pass a law allowing cities to approve a mill levy to finance city bands, and 28 other states, including Kansas, enacted similar legislation. The Bonner Springs City Band is financed by the city. In my opinion it is one of our finest community assets and it brings many visitors to our city.
As you can tell, I’m a big supporter of the band. I look forward to the start of the season because I see persons from surrounding communities that I haven’t seen since the close of the previous season. I enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship.
Summer will officially start for me on Thursday with Bill and Aaron leading the band. I know it will be a great concert season with large bands and excellent attendance, however, I know there will be many of us who will feel a twinge of melancholy without our friend Larry Berg.
If you have never attended a band concert, come by Kelly Murphy Park and enjoy good, old-fashioned community entertainment.