Hot-air balloons, swing dancing, art shows, food and the smooth sound of 1920s jazz will greet an expected 20,000 people this weekend in Danville for the 28th annual Great American Brass Band Festival.
The celebration of brass bands features performances beginning Thursday and ending Sunday afternoon. The festival, with more than 20 groups and soloists scheduled to perform, plus other free activities, attracts visitors from around the country.
“It’s a great way to kick off your summer,” said Leigh Jefferson, associate director of the Great American Brass Band Festival. “It’s fun, it’s outdoors, it’s free. There’s a little bit of fun for everyone to enjoy.”
Most of the weekend’s scheduled events will be on Centre College’s campus. There also will be a concert Friday afternoon at Shaker Village.
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Jefferson said she and executive director Niki Kinkade have been planning the event since August, working with hundreds of volunteers to prepare.
One of the festival’s main events is Bayou and Brass, a New Orleans-style street party with music, Cajun food, dancing, and a parade through downtown Danville, beginning at 4 p.m. Friday. Jefferson said children’s activities will include arts and crafts, face painting and a parasol parade.
Bayou and Brass features bands and soloists, and Jefferson said a “surprise performance” is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday. “Just bring a comfy chair and come enjoy all the music,” she said.
Volunteer Bill Payne, who is organizing Bayou and Brass said he began volunteering for the event each year after he retired from farming. Payne said he and his wife love visiting New Orleans, which drew him to Bayou and Brass.
“New Orleans is sort of the United States’ most European city,” he said. “It has great history, great music, great food. We thoroughly enjoy it.”
Bayou and Brass offers Central Kentuckians a chance to experience that culture without leaving the state, he said.
Trombonist Patrick Bolender, 23, a member of the Bourbon Boys Quintet, a student ensemble, said his group will play some music tied to the theme of this year’s festival, “The Roaring Twenties.” One such song will be “Misty,” famously performed by Ella Fitzgerald.
Bolender, a student at Northern Kentucky University who has played the trombone for 12 years, said he is most excited to see trombonist Wycliffe Gordon perform. Gordon, who has performed around the world, will give multiple performances this weekend.
“I love listening to brass music almost more than any other type of classical ensemble,” Bolender said. “You just get a different variety of colors in a brass ensemble that you wouldn’t in a string orchestra.”
Other professional groups scheduled to perform include Boston Brass, trumpeter Jens Lindemann, the 100th Army Band of Fort Knox, Lowdown Brass Band of Chicago, the Stormville Stompers of New Orleans, and Lexington ragtime pianist Dick Domek. For a full list of performers and performance times, go to GABBF.org/new/performers.
“Come out and enjoy an iconic Kentucky event,” Jefferson said. “Food, family, fun, parades, picnics — what more could you want on a summer weekend?”
Emma Austin: 859-231-1455.
If you go
2 p.m.: Chautauqua tea
5 p.m.: Croquet & Brass
7:30 p.m.: Great American Swing Dance
Friday, June 2
4 p.m.: Bayou and Brass
4:30 p.m.: Concert at Shaker Village
5 p.m.: Great American Balloon Race
Saturday, June 3
7 a.m.: Run for the Brass 5K
11 a.m.: Main Street parade
12 p.m.: Concerts on the Main Stage
5 p.m.: Great American Picnic
Sunday, June 4
8 a.m.: Bike through the Bluegrass
9:15 a.m.: Community ecumenical church service
9:15 a.m.: Sunday concert schedule
10:30 a.m.: Great American Art Festival
For a full list of scheduled events and performers, go to GABBF.org.