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Band fest in Benson set to draw another big crowd

Chairs are positioned Monday near Highway 12 in Benson, ahead of today's band festival. Tribune photo by TJ Jerke

BENSON -- Days before the parade starts, Benson community members were marking their spots along the route of the 24th annual Pioneerland Band Festival.

Set to begin at 6:30 this evening, 11 bands from around the state will compete during the annual event that corresponds with the national Flag Day holiday.

Stephanie Heinzig, manager of the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce, said Benson has been opening its doors to at least 10 communities during the annual event to display the talented musicians and commemorate the American flag.

"It's a nice thing for the youth of Minnesota," Heinzig said. "The band teaches discipline and gives them opportunities to look inside themselves and encourages a life-long love of music."

The parade will include three Class AAA bands: St. Cloud All City, St. Anthony Village & String Lake Park Patriots, and the Mankato 77 Lancers.

Bemidji, Hutchinson and Fergus Falls will perform as part of Class AA schools, with Worthington, Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, Litchfield and Bertha-Hewitt competing as Class A schools. The bands will perform three times, once in front of a panel of four tri-state judges.

A total of $2,550 is awarded to the top three place winners in all three classes, with awards immediately following the parade at the high school football field.

Presiding over the parade this year is grand marshal Marilyn Inman, a music educator who has created arrangements and composed for musical acts in Benson since 1977.

Heinzig said a large American flag that spans the width of the street will be displayed by the Benson Fire Department. The flag was donated by Wilfred Holms in memory of his brother Elmer Holm who was killed in World War II.

The parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. today in the southwest corner on U.S. Highway 12 and march northeast on 14th Street toward the high school and is slated to finish by 9:30 p.m.