At 25, Danville's Great American Brass Band Festival continues to stand alone

Contributing Culture WriterJune 5, 2014 

GABBF '12 Picnic

The Great American Brass Band Festival began in Danville in 1990. This weekend's event, running through Sunday is the 25th.

KIRK SCHLEA — ©Kirk Schlea

  • IF YOU GO

    Great American Brass Festival

    When: Through June 8

    Where: Various sites throughout downtown Danville and on Centre College's campus; some June 6 events in nearby communities.

    Admission: Free

    Learn more: Gabbf.org.

    SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS

    June 6

    ■ Zlatne Uste. 4:30 p.m. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg.

    ■ Dixie Power Trio. 7 p.m. Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg.

    ■ Olde Town Brass. 4:30 p.m. Downtown Stanford.

    ■ Great American Balloon Race. 5:30 p.m. With Circle City Sidewalk Stompers. Stuart Powell Field, Junction City.

    ■ Bayou and Brass party. 5:30-10 p.m. Main Street, Danville. Billy Goat Strut Revue at 6 p.m., Circle City Sidewalk Stompers at 8, Storyville Stompers at 8:30.

    June 7

    ■ At Weisiger Park: 9 a.m., Olde Towne Brass. 10, Walnut Street Ragtime Ramblers. Noon, Princeton Brass. 1 p.m., Dixie Power Trio. 2, River City Youth Brass Band.

    ■ At Boyle County Public Library: 2 p.m., children's program with Saxton's Cornet Band. 3, Saxton's Cornet Band.

    ■ Main Street Parade. 11 a.m. Featuring 202nd Army Band, National Capital Band, Zlatne Uste, Circle City Sidewalk Stompers, Saxton's Cornet Band, Advocate Brass Band, Old Towne Brass, March Madness Marching Band, Storyville Stompers.

    ■ Main stage (Centre College): Noon, UK Brass Quintet. 1 p.m., 202nd Army Band. 2, Zlatne Uste. 3, National Capital Band. 4, Circle City Sidewalk Stompers on Walnut Street. 4, Screening of Brasslands film behind Main Stage.

    ■ Great American Picnic. 5 p.m.-midnight. Centre College's Old Centre Lawn. 6, Advocate Brass Band. 7, Princeton Brass. 8, Mr. Jack Daniel's Silver Cornet Band. 9, Dixie Power Trio with fireworks. 10, Storyville Stompers.

    June 8

    ■ Main stage: 9:15 a.m., community church service. 11, National Capital Band. Noon, Princeton Brass. 1 p.m., Mr. Jack Daniel's Silver Cornet Band. 2, River City Youth Brass Band.

    ■ Grand Finale at Norton Center: 3:10 p.m., doors open. 3:40, Brass Band of Columbus, Saxton's Cornet Band and Advocate Brass.

This time of year, Danville really blows. And music fans are pretty excited about it.

For 25 summers, the Great American Brass Band Festival has brought some of the best brass musicians in the world to Central Kentucky.

Through Sunday, the festival again will be providing downtown Danville (and some surrounding towns) with a different soundtrack for the summer.

The festival, which began Thursday, is expected to attract nearly 40,000 spectators over the course of its four days. Executive director Niki Kinkade said the event draws those numbers based on its one-of-a-kind nature.

"We have a very unique niche in this market because we truly are the only festival of its kind in the world," Kinkade said. "It is truly one of the best places brass bands can play."

The festival's reputation attracts a variety of talent. This year will feature 17 brass bands from across the country, ranging in size from as few as five players to as many as 52. The festival routinely has featured acts specializing in a traditional British style and the energetic New Orleans style of brass bands. But Kinkade said this year is different thanks to the addition of Zlatne Uste, a Balkan brass band performing Serbian-inspired sounds.

"We've never had Balkan music, so this year will be our first," Kinkade said. "It's just a whole new sound."

Much of what festival fans have come to know and love will be intact. Every aspect is still free. The Bayou and Brass event will be a festival highlight Friday night, featuring New Orleans-inspired music, food and drinks. The Main Street Parade on Saturday morning will be a giant display of music and small-town Americana. On Sunday afternoon, the Grand Finale will move the music indoors to Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts.

Kinkade said that while some aspects of the festival haven't changed, festival organizers have made a concerted effort to expand the children's area. There is a musical petting zoo, which allows kids to handle brass instruments. They will be able to participate in an interactive art installation for the stages, and the Explorium of Lexington will be on hand with music-inspired activities.

"One of our mission statements is to keep brass music alive, and one of the ways to do that is through our youth," Kinkade said. "Especially with the youth, exposure's important."

In addition to fostering an enthusiasm for brass music, Kinkade said, the Great American Brass Festival does a great job of showing this is just one of the community-driven events that Danville — and Kentucky — can be proud of.

"There's a lot of ownership of this festival within our area," she said. "We are an iconic festival here in Kentucky. I think it does put us on the map."

Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.

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