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Band Day in Williston, North Dakota is 91 years old this year! Held annually every Mother’s Day weekend, this event’s key feature is a large parade of community floats and student marching bands from western North Dakota and northeast Montana, and at least one professional guest marching band. Some of the most popular guest bands in recent years have been NFL drumlines such as the Seattle Seahawks Blue Thunder and the Denver Broncos Stampede. The parade is followed by live concerts in Harmon Park, where event participants can browse a wide variety of vendors.

Over the years, other groups have scheduled events on the same weekend as Band Day, helping it grow into a large local festival. These include the season start of dirt track racing at Williston Basin Speedway, a regional high school rodeo, a large classic car show, a 5k run and other, smaller events and retail sales throughout town. These draw people from all over North Dakota and Eastern Montana as event participants, spectators and shoppers.

Band Day is also a multi-generational celebration. Since Band Day originated pre-WWII, Williston hosts many people who come back for Mother’s Day to share it again with their parents and grandparents. This creates a reunion-type atmosphere in Harmon Park following the parade, as people reconnect with old classmates, neighbors and friends.

Efforts continue to grow Band Day. In a community survey, residents overwhelmingly cited more marching bands as a desired area of growth for the event. In the first half of the 20th century, live music was a common form of public entertainment and every small town had a school marching band. Over time, many rural railroad and farming communities grew smaller and combined with others to offer public school. Some school bands that once participated in Williston’s Band Day no longer even offer a band program or have their own school district. As a result, the Band Day committee finds itself reaching out to schools and music programs further away.
The volunteer committee works closely with regional band directors to help them bring their kids to Band Day. Mileage is offered, to help bands make the trip. If a band program is newer and not ready to march, the committee finds flatbed trailers, trucks and drivers for the bands to play on for the parade. Students and their chaperones are invited to a free burger feed in the park following the parade, to ease the expense of traveling. Some bands, such as one from Regina, SK, need overnight accommodations in order to make the trip feasible. The Band Day Committee has worked with the Williston Parks district to provide indoor camping for the band. In addition, students who come to Band Day have the opportunity to work with the professional guest band(s) in special workshops and master classes.

Band Day is May 12 this year! The guest band is the Party Crashers Brass Band out of Colorado. It consists of many members of the Denver Broncos Stampede drumline as well as a large brass section. With approximately 30 members making the trip, it is the largest professional guest band Williston has hosted for Band Day yet.