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Online Exhibits - They're Playing Our Song, Part 9

Community Bands in Kansas

Mound City Band posing in front of their bandwagon, 1878.

Bandwagons

Traveling circuses often paraded through the towns where they performed. As early as the 1830s, wagons carrying bands began to appear in circus parades. Often the bandwagon was the most ornate vehicle in the parade.

In 1865 a circus featuring a bandwagon came to Mound City, Kansas. Due to bad weather, the circus soon ran out of fodder for its animals. A local businessman advanced feed and hay to the circus, but the operators were unable to pay the bill. They offered the bandwagon in lieu of cash.

The city has owned the bandwagon since 1878, when the businessman turned it over on the condition it be kept up. The band posed in front of the wagon shortly after acquiring it (top, right).  The restored bandwagon appears in several parades each year.

Postcard of the Garden City band shell, 1938.

Bandstands and Gazebos

A bandstand in the city park or courthouse square was once a common fixture across Kansas. Bandstands often were built by local labor using donated materials. Some towns used portable bandstands assembled for each concert.

"The Observer would suggest that a platform and bandstand be erected in the park so that concerts and public meetings may be held during the summer months. The trees are now large enough to make a good shade in the day time, and it is a cool and pleasant place to spend the evenings. We understand that the band is willing to give two or three free concerts each week if a suitable platform can be erected."
--Pleasanton Observer, June 10, 1899.

Garden City's bandshell (bottom, left), built in Stevens Park in 1931, reportedly is the largest and most elaborate in the state. It contains rest rooms, storage space for chairs, and still has room for a 75-piece band.

This concludes the Kansas Museum of History's online exhibit, They're Playing Our Song: Community Bands in Kansas.

  1. Military Bands
  2. Town Bands
  3. Music in the Schools
  4. Fraternal Bands
  5. Railroad Bands
  6. Cowboy Bands
  7. Ethnic Folk Bands
  8. Circus Bands
  9. Bandwagons and Bandstands