Thursday, August 5, 2010
1976 All-Ohio State Fair Band
With the Ohio State Fair currently underway in Columbus, I've been thinking all week of one of my most memorable experiences: being a member of the 1976 All-Ohio State Fair Band.
The All-Ohio State Fair Band was founded in 1925, and has entertained fairgoers ever since. It has also provided high school musicians from all over the state with a unique educational experience.
To get into the Band, the student musicians must be recommended by their hometown band director. It was originally an all-male group, but the organization welcomed females for the first time in 1975.
Rhodes Center was our home away from home on the fairgrounds and served as the barracks. The operation was very disciplined, like the army. Each day began with Reveille and inspection of our bunks. There was also a lights-out ritual at night.
We first arrived at the fairgrounds a few days before the fair opened. For many of the kids, it was the first time they had ever been away from home. Soon, however, we were too busy rehearsing the music to have time to be homesick. We learned dozens of concert pieces and many short marches that we would perform while parading around the fairgrounds.
Two weeks was a long time to be at the fair back then (it's much shorter now), and we did get some free time now and then just to have fun. I remember hitting some of the freak shows with a few buddies. We also got to see some of the Grandstand shows; I remember a Fair employee allowing a few of us to sit in the front row for both Bob Hope and Red Skelton.
Other sights and sounds of the fair are etched permanently in my mind.
There was the annoying Bobo the Clown, perched above one of those ubiquitous dunk tanks, constantly heckling passers-by and "looking for a ballplayer" to take a chance and try to hit the target that would drop him into the water. Although there were a few different Bobo's at the Fair, there was one that was particularly nasty; quite a few bandsmen tried to dunk him!
There was a Dutch Apple Pie stand that was right next to Rhodes Center. A tape recorded message describing this delicacy was looped to blast continually through a loud speaker, and after hearing the description for the 100th time, apple pie was the last thing you wanted to eat.
During one of our marches around the fairgrounds, we stopped and played "Happy Birthday" for Colonel Sanders! I remember being pretty excited but shocked at how short he was.
We also got to be on TV several times, performing on several local Columbus and Cincinnati shows, including the Bob Braun Show! We made a record too (at right).
But the thing that I remember most about the All-Ohio State Fair Band was how sad it was when we played our last concert. I remember many kids bawling; we had enjoyed it so much that we didn't want it to end.
I still get goosebumps when I hear the Stars and Stripes Forever, the traditional closing tune at our concerts.
The All-Ohio State Fair Band has its own website and a facebook page too. So, if you were lucky like me to be a part of this organization, then there are plenty of online resources for you to enjoy. Better yet, join the alumni association and consider playing on Alumni Day next year! I'm thinking about it!