“76 Trombones…”

23 May 2015Sylvie Greeniaus commented on my previous post about Mackinac Island, noting I was on my way to Mason City, Iowa, and asking: “What’s going on there?”

Think trombones, Sylvie.

trombone in streetside flower bed, in hour of the parade

Think 76 of them.

Since 1938, Mason City has been home to the North Iowa Band Festival. No wonder composer/playwright/songwriter/etc. Meredith Willson, born in Mason City in 1902, grew up to write book & music for the Broadway hit, The Music Man.

Which introduced and made famous the song, 76 Trombones (led the big parade)…

Which explains why the yearly Big Parade is now led by exactly 76 trombones, playing that song.

76 trombones, playing "76 Trombones..."

Then all the regional marching bands get to strut their stuff.

Some 60 of them this year, lots and lots from middle and high schools, showing that the tradition is alive and very well. A Clear Lake band, for example, complete with twirling flags.

the Clear Lake marching band

Then there’s everything else that makes up a Big Parade.

Marching horses …

in the Mason City parade

a vintage fire truck …

old fire truck in the parade

vintage automobiles …

with an "ouga-ouga" horn!


and a vintage steam engine. Oh all right, this one is made of cardboard, but it’s a splendid replica of the beloved real thing, over in East Park.

replica of steam engine in East Park

Balloons on trucks …

in the Big Parade

and costumes on people …

in the parade

and kids on roller skates, doling out candies (Batchild checks his haul) …

just two of the roller-skating candy tossers

and a kid on a unicycle, intent on his own balance, not candy for the moppets.

the only unicyclist

People marching with dogs …

biggest dog in the parade

and with kids …

lots of kiddies, getting a ride

and moms holding entranced, happy kids along the route …

on the sidelines...

and entranced, happy adults along the route.

my friend Danna...

A serving of barbecued corn on the cob, awash in butter & salt (the only time I pile on the salt), while we watch the parade …

oh that corn on the cob!

and then, finally finally, the parade is over.

I follow my friend & travel companion Danna (whose hometown this is) to a post-parade picnic.

family friends & their annual picnic

And that, Sylvie, is what brought us to Mason City, Iowa!

But we’ll be doing lots more here as well. As you will see.


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  1. kmorgan@primus.ca

     /  23 May 2015

    Penny that sounds wonderful. I have to ask: were there 110 cornets right behind?
    Happy travels,
    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone

  2. sylvie greeniaus

     /  23 May 2015

    Fun! but very far! Did you fly part of it or drive all they way from Toronto.

    • No, we’re driving all the way — sharing driving, small roads, lots of stops to walk about & poke about, all fun

  3. I love it!

  4. What a happy occasion. So glad to see that young people are playing music – I despair here -it is rumoured no more peripatetic music teachers


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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