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Rapids City Band Completes Another Season

By: Earle Garber

This is the historical portion of an article published September 1, 2008 in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune

Community bands have a long history in Wisconsin. For over a century and a half, this community has had music to take pleasure in. During 1863, the Civil War appeared a never-ending conflict. The Iron Brigade was pressing for more volunteers when members of the Centralia band floated a pontoon boat (the bridge had washed out) across the river to meet members from the Twin Cities Band of Grand Rapids, then joined dignitaries, veterans, and children to march down Vine (Grand Avenue), across the river to Cranberry Street (Grand Avenue), and celebrate Fourth of July in the Grove. It is the parking area across from the Centralia Center, across from the Cultural Center and Community Theater - a space recommended in the tax incremental finance district study for summer entertainment.

During the 1880s and '90s, bands, the Bliss Band, Grant White's group, I.O.O.F. Odd Fellows, Centralia Cornet, Twin Cities Band, and Lyons Brothers entertained. Several practiced above George Frechette's tavern in the Gardiner block on Water Street. Then in 1912, Emil Lambert, a graduate of Howe High School, returned home. City fathers asked that he add the city band to his responsibilities and move the band to the second floor of the west side fire station (now within the mall area). Lambert had been in Rushford, Minn., as the school band and orchestra instructor. In 1920 Lambert took the municipal band, sponsored by Consolidated Water Power and Paper Co., to the state fair in Milwaukee.

In the 1930's with limited parking at the first court house, Lambert persuaded the common council to move the bandstand to Witter Field. In 1948, after 32 years, Lambert turned the band over to musician and insurance agent Bernie Ziegler. Ziegler conducted the city band for 23 years. In 1971, Mayor Donald Penza encouraged the band's first trumpet player, Wally Ives, to take over. Ives, a respected businessman and fine musician, became city band director until 1988, when Don Chesebro accepted the position. During Chesebro's 20 years, the band has reconnected with the facilities at Lincoln High School. The band has a home and a future, in inner Wisconsin.