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WASHINGTON PARK BANDSHELL
Check our Casper Event Calendar for concerts and special guests!
105 Years and the band plays on!
Come Early for the best patch of grass!
Bring Your Own Seating!
An hour before the concert, people begin setting up their lawn chairs in front of the band shell at Washington Park to guarantee they get V.I.P. seats.
A few minutes later, hundreds more Casperites quickly fill up the park with their own lawn chairs, blankets and conversation.
Members of the municipal band arrive wearing matching red dinner jackets, white shirts and black bow ties. They tune their instruments and the crowd quiets down.
"My husband and I call the band shell our second home in the summer," said trombonist Marian Kingdon, who has been in the band for more than 20 years with her husband Doug Kingdon.
"We're here two nights a week," she said. "Tuesdays we rehearse, and the park is ours on Thursday nights."
Bob White, 84, joined the band in 1950. He left for many years to work in the oil industry, but came back and is now the oldest player, as well as the principal clarinetist.
He said his favorite piece is John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."
"He's as good as you can get on the clarinet," Kingdon said of White.
Kingdon said there are several married band members, as well as parents and siblings in the band.
"Our members range in age from 18 to in their 80s," she said. "We enjoy what we do. I like it because it's just plain fun to still be able to play the horn. Our municipal band is one of the few left in the country."
Band Director and Conductor, Roger Fenner, said there are about 65 members in Casper's municipal band. When an opening becomes available, prospective members must pass an audition for the seat.
"Once you're in it, you're in it for life," said member Fred Taylor.
According to research in the Casper College archives from the late Eileen Lawson, Casper's first brass band was organized in 1890 and a group of musicians organized the city's first municipal band in 1902 to provide summer concerts for the public.
In 1931, the city passed a quarter-percent mill levy to guarantee the band had funding every year to purchase instruments and pay the members. This year, the municipal band will get $75,000 from Casper taxpayers. Band members are paid about $4,000 total for each of eight concerts and the rest goes to equipment and other expenses.
Fenner said band members will get a small raise this year. He said he hopes the band can replace a few worn-out instruments, including a tuba and a drum that keeps going out of tune.
When the weekly, free concert begins at 7:30 p.m., the park is filled with hundreds of residents eager to hear the mixture of classical music and showtunes.
Children play on the grass to the music, couples young and old hold hands, and the summer sun slowly sets behind the band shell once again.
Article courtesy of John Morgan, Casper Star Tribune. John can be reached at (307) 266-0614 or email@example.com.