DANVILLE — Every June, this town in Kentucky's southern Bluegrass region shines a little brighter when about 40,000 people from parts near and far show up for the Great American Brass Band Festival.
Niki Kinkade, who provided the attendance figure, took over as executive director four years ago. She said she's been amazed at how the town of about 16,000 unites for the four-day event that stretches several miles and entertains diverse crowds.
"Hundreds of volunteers put it on," Kinkade said. "Everybody does a piece."
It started early Saturday for Terry Taylor. Before the festival's Main Street parade, the retired priest placed a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola and a tub of ice on a table in front of Trinity Episcopal Church.
As he taped a sign to the checkered tablecloth — "Free soft drinks! Enjoy!" — he said the town had just the appeal he and his wife were looking for when they moved from Cleveland 10 years ago.
"We love Danville," Taylor said. "We chose it as a place to retire out of the whole world."
Selected in 2011 as one of the 25 best towns for retirees by Money Magazine, Danville is also a college town. A couple blocks from the church, vendors cooking Italian sausage, crab rangoon and bourbon chicken filled the streets near Centre College with an aromatic haze.
Julius Hovan of Harrodsburg sat on a curb and finished a pulled pork sandwich. The 75-year-old — "and proud of it!" — enjoyed the weekend's free entertainment and local vibe which, he said, can't be beat.
"Good Kentucky country folks, mostly," Hovan said, referring to the festival's crowd. "It's a beautiful town, and Centre College makes the town even better."
People lined Main Street for the parade. Displays of patriotism included flag-waving, creative dog costumes and vibrant red, white and blue mohawks.
As the parade ended, the Atlantic Brass Band set up at the Weisiger Park gazebo and Ef Deal, wife of the group's emcee, passed out promotional fliers for the band. The 57-year-old from Glassboro, N.J., said brass music creates a powerful atmosphere that one can understand only by hearing it.
"It makes you a part of something that is ethereal," Deal said. "You make that sound, and it rises, and it goes out and it reaches people — and you're physically a part of that. I mean, look how many people they're going to touch today."
Throughout the performance, the park swelled with bobbing sun hats, tapping toes and clapping hands. As the band finished its last number — John Williams' Olympic Fanfare and Theme — Kathleen Rogers and Sharon Belisle unloaded lawn chairs from their car and joined the crowd.
The sisters grew up in Danville and returned for the festival. Rogers, 50, flew from Tucson, Ariz., and Belisle, 53, drove down from Midland, Mich. A music teacher, Rogers explained how music can bring people of all ages and backgrounds together.
"It's just got a timeless feel to the whole festival," she said. "I think that's what people really love."