March to Mason City for Band Festival Parade

Mason City High School will perform at the North Iowa Band Festival, held in Mason City. Photo: Mason City Chamber of Commerce.

Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

Set out your lawn chairs early if you want a prime spot to see Mason City’s famous North Iowa Band Festival Parade on May 28. Locals start staking their claims a week out.

“That’s no joke,” festival coordinator Noah Harris says. “Usually it’s a few days early, but sometimes it’s a full week.”

This year’s 83rd annual parade promises at least 10 marching bands among nearly 100 entries – “floats, firetrucks, cars, dogs, all that good stuff,” Harris says. The entry that makes best use of this year’s theme, “Band Fest on Broadway,” will win the Grand Marshal Award, while the best wild-card entry will score the coveted Mr. Toot Award, named for the city’s trombonist mascot.

Harris estimates that 60,000 visitors—about double the local population—will head to town over the course of the festival weekend for concerts, a carnival and a 4-mile run (with 110 cornets right behind). Most events will take place in the heart of downtown’s Cultural and Entertainment District, which includes a new performance pavilion that was unveiled last fall as part of the River City Renaissance Project. Progress marches on.

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