Posted by: Dan Bergeson | January 25, 2011

My Next Fund-Raising Project

Winter Walk, 2009

I told myself that when I succeeded in replacing the worn out downtown holiday decorations, I could  focus on building a bandshell in Northfield. I organized a committee to work on the holiday project in 2008 and by mid-2009 we had achieved our goal. $20,000 later we had banners and snowflakes in place for the 2009 holiday season. It was a magnificent outpouring of civic pride and commitment . . . and in the midst of a serious economic downturn! Everyone who gave more than a penny to assist in this effort deserves an enormous round of applause.

That was more than 12 months ago. We’re currently enjoying the second season of these decorations. They’re as fresh and lovely as they were when we debuted them over a year ago.

Now it’s time to consider a different goal.

Every midwest town worth its salt has a bandshell: a public place where community bands, community theater, and other public events can be staged during spring, summer and fall. Cannon Falls, MN has one and so do Faribault, Owatonna, and Red Wing. I haven’t made a study of it, but there are many other bandshells in Minnesota. I’ve attended a concert at the bandshell in Two Harbors and I’ve visited the bandshell in Winona, MN.

Winona, MN Bandshell

Winona, MN Bandshell seating

Recently, I was inspired to give life to  my bandshell obsession by Joy Riggs, a blogger colleague @ My Musical Family. Joy writes passionately about the bandshell in Iowa Falls, IA. She also references the only bandshell ever erected in Northfield, the Finseth Bandstand, built in 1910 at St. Olaf College. The City of Northfield has never built a bandshell, despite a 150-year history of musical greatness arguably unrivalled by any other Minnesota community its size. Never. How come?

The Finseth Bandstand, c. 1910

The Finseth Bandstand, extant on the St. Olaf campus from 1910 – 1967, finally succumbed to the college’s need for expansion space. It was replaced by the Science Center in 1967.

During the 1980s, rather than look for a permanent location for an outdoor performing venue, the City of Northfield put its efforts into purchasing  the Wenger Corp. “Showmobile”, a stage on wheels that can be deployed anywhere in the City or surrounding area where an outdoor performance is planned. The downside of this strategy is that the device has to be assembled prior to the performance and disassembled after the performance, resulting in expensive and unpredictable labor costs.

It’s clear that this topic needs more space than one measly blog post can provide. I’m going to sign off and promise to return soon with “We Want a Bandshell, Part II.”



  1. Guess it didn’t. My comment was to ask if you had talked with my brother David about this. He has mentioned the idea of a bandshell using some volunteer alum labor and supplies in honor of Sidney Rand on a sidehill at St. Olaf.

    Also, I am glad to see you have the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater listed. I lived near Pete and Toshi Seeger in New York and he would perform locally, especially with my friend, musician David Amram. I have a picture of them at the Putnam County Fair. He always talked about the Clearwater project.

    Perhaps you can add a link to the Northfield Entertainment Guide for this. Wait until you see the Feb. “Best of Northfield” edition!

    • No, Susan, haven’t talked to David about this idea. I’ll have to do that soon. And yes, I’ll add a link to the Northfield Entertainment Guide. Great idea! Rob will be pleased.

  2. […] a thriving arts community on every level and no band shell or outdoor stage. It’s baffling. I’ve written on this topic before and I’ve bent many an ear with the same question and . . . complaint!! Why not one more time? […]

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