AND THE BANDS PLAYED ON
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
It may have been 50 years ago, but Martin Sieverding remembers well the very first Menno Band Day well.
Marching in it must have really left an impression.
“I was in the band at the time and I remember coming down to Menno and especially driving into town,” said Sieverding, who estimates he was an eighth-grader or in his early high school years at West Central at the time. “I think I even saw a picture of our band in the files in the Menno band room.”
Sieverding was again involved with Menno Band Day upon its return to the community last Friday, Oct. 9 following a two-year hiatus. This time he was on the microphone announcing the participating bands as they made their way south on Fifth Street, playing to the patron-lined streets and performing for a panel of judges set up in front of Lehr Insurance Agency near the corner of Fifth and Poplar streets.
“It’s just a joy to watch the bands and listen to them,” said Sieverding, who has spent his entire career at Menno Public School — 21 years as band director before taking over as technology coordinator. “To see the bands and the things they’re doing and executing them so well and sounding so good, it just brings the whole thing together.”
Menno Band Day is one with a start-stop-and-go history in the community. It was originally held over three years in the early 1970s before going dark for more than three decades. But in 2007 Larry Tolzin, mayor of Menno at the time and a former band director at the school, decided to bring it back, recalling the enjoyment he had experienced in those three original years.
Bands converged in Menno for the exhibition and competition in 2007 and through the next 10 years, but scheduling conflicts in 2018 and 2019 prevented Menno Band Day from happening those two years. And while COVID-19 could have meant a third-straight year off, organizers forged ahead to bring it back in 2020.
Among those responsible for the leadership is Candace Fiedler, who is in her second year as band director at Menno. Fiedler said preparation for the day starts in the summer, when invitations are sent to area schools, and picks up significantly once the school year starts.
“There are countless meetings with the wonderful Music Boosters to plan every inch of the event — and this year that included special planning to help with safety concerns amidst COVID-19,” Fiedler told The Courier. “We have to figure out everything from the parade lineup to their meals to signage and so much more. We couldn’t do any of this without the help of our community, staff and band members.”
She said it’s well worth the effort.
“The students’ faces marching down the street this year was worth every hour of work put into this event,” said Fiedler, who grew up at Lake Poinsett but spent her high school years at schools in Arizona and Texas. “So much has been taken away from students this year with the pandemic, so it was a great feeling to be able to finally bring back Menno Band Day amidst it all.”
And the weather couldn’t have been nicer.
The parade of bands began under sunny skies and amidst mild fall conditions shortly after 10 a.m. with the Menno Marching Band leading the way. The local students did not compete, however; the competition was reserved for the seven bands that followed (eight were scheduled to be there but one elected to stay home out of COVID-19 concerns), each marching to their own song and performing for the spectators and judges. The bands were divided into three classes based on the size of the band — not the school — with winners recognized at an awards ceremony at the football field later in the day.
This year’s Menno Band Day also included a drumline battle at the football field prior to the awards ceremony. Menno won based on crowd reaction.
“In past years we’ve had a college band, but this year, because of COVID-19, college bands aren’t doing anything, so we had to find something else,” said Sieverding, who played the baritone and trombone in high school and still enjoys slipping into the band room and making music. “We thought, ‘Let’s do a drumline,’ so we did it.”
Menno was the winner among the three competing drumlines, but Sioux Falls Christian swept the judged awards, winning the Class A division and taking all of the caption awards, including Outstanding Flag Line, Outstanding Percussion, Outstanding Winds, Outstanding Drum Major and Sweepstakes.
Winner in Class B was Centerville with Arlington taking second. The Class C winner was Gayville-Volin, with Elkton-Lake Benton taking second.
Sioux Falls Christian also won the 2020 Elden Samp Crowd Pleaser Award given for the most entertaining performance. The winner of that award is determined by a panel of three judges who work independently of the others and includes a cash prize to offset transportation costs upon the return home.
Here’s more on that award, as explained by Sieverding during the awards ceremony.
The Elden Samp “Crowd Pleaser Award” is sponsored by Rollyn Samp, Samp Law Firm and the family of Elden Samp. Elden was a former director of the Menno band. He was also a co-founder of the South Dakota All State Band and secretary/treasurer of South Dakota Band Masters for nearly two decades. He is a member of the South Dakota Bandmasters Hall of Fame. Mr. Samp yearned for successful marching programs for students (to) teach the students self-discipline, posture and other health habits, be an advertising medium for our community and act as a public relations group between school and community. Many times as a band director Mr. Samp’s band needed to win first place in competition in order to win the cash prize in order to offset transportation costs home from the event.