By Per Peterson
Grand marshals have come and gone. Floats have been built and torn down. Kids in kiddie parades have grown up, advanced to the big parade and now even proudly watch their kids march. But for the better part of the last 57 years, there has been one constant in the Box Car Days Grand Parade (besides the 1 p.m. sharp start): Clint Peterson.
From leading the high school marching band for 25 years, to directing the Community Band, Peterson and his bands have been a Box Car Days mainstay.
Peterson’s introduction to the Box Car Day Grand Parade came in 1960, and he remembers how Dr. Workman demanded a prompt start.
“He was the parade marshal, and you’d better be ready, because the parade started right at 1 o’clock,” Peterson said. “There were no ifs ands or buts. The band needed to be ready to step off as soon as he said.”
Peterson recalled how the junior high band used to march in the big parade. The only catch was, they had to wait to join in.
“We didn’t have enough percussion equipment, so once the senior high band got around, the junior high band was ready, and they got the percussion equipment,” Peterson said. “The junior high band came in at the Catholic Church and went around.”
Peterson remembers when bands were plenty at the parade, which made the parades longer. A number of areas towns at one time sent their high school bands, and the Schell’s Mobile Band from New Ulm was also a parade staple for a time.
“At that time, we would go and march in other town’s parades and they would reciprocate and come here,” Peterson said. “SMSU used to come every other year.”
The Community Band made its parade debut in 1990. They first played at the All-School reunion that summer.
“It all started with the reunion — they asked me if I would direct an alumni band for that,” Peterson said. “Then we kind of advertised that we’d like to get the alumni in and start rehearsing. As people returned, it kept going and going … finally on that Saturday morning we had our final rehearsal, and I had a 100-piece alumni band for the program that night.”
Peterson said that band also played at Swift Lake Park for the 4th of July before a smaller version entertained thousands of parade-goers at the Box Car Days Parade. Peterson said a “pretty good number” of musicians showed up for the Independence Day gig.
“Then someone said, ‘I think they really want us in the Box Car Day Parade,’” Peterson said. “For many years we rode a flatbed from John Deere, and they sold it, and we started riding one from the Fultzes. I remember, Chauncey (Muedeking) said, ‘I’ve got bad news.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘They’re selling our flatbed.’ I knew we needed to find something new to ride on because we’re surely not going to march!”
For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.