The Great American Brass Band Festival
Danville, Kentucky Makes a Joyous Noise
The chirping of birds, folks bantering over lunch or coffee, the whooshing of cars; the sounds emanating from the small city of Danville, Kentucky are about what you'd expect. Most of the time. But every year in late spring Danville makes a noise like you wouldn't believe; it bangs and clangs and honks and toots and blares and laughs at the top of its lungs. All of which are indicators that the Great American Brass Band Festival (GABBF) has once again come to town.
England's Black Dyke Trombones
This year's GABBF, the 25th edition of the event, takes place June 5-8 at various outdoor venues in the downtown Danville area and at several locations just outside of town. Highlights of the festival include the Main Street Parade featuring most of the participating bands, vintage cars, local celebrities and more, the New Orleans-style Bayou and Brass street party and the festival-closing Great American Picnic, held on the great lawn at Centre College.
The Great American Picnic
The picnic is a giant mingler for the community where some participate in the vaunted picnic table decorating competition, thousands bring their blankets and lawn chairs to the large grassy area and everybody eats and drinks while the best of the festival bands provide entertainment. In between all of this shows are presented on three stages and there are also concerts by non-brass band acts like pianist Scott Kirby who in 2013 played a set of ragtime for fans, wowing the crowd with exuberant versions of tunes like Eubie Blake's "Charleston Rag."
Ragtime pianist Scott Kirby
And there's more fun to be had wherever you look: festival food and goodies are being gobbled up, vendors selling art and items with local color attract the curious and the always popular festival merch area does a booming business with its wide array of T-shirts, pins, caps, posters and CDs and DVDs from the participating bands. Also, if you want to, it is very easy to meet the players; they're happy to pose for pictures and chat about the music that they love so much.
Fear the Trombones!
A casual visitor to the GABBF doesn't really have to worry too much about scheduling; it's fun to just follow the sound of the music from one area to another during the easily-walkable event. But if you don't want to miss a single thing, make sure to pick up the full schedule which includes all band performance times as well as a list of events like the Brass Symposium, Great American Hot Air Balloon Race, poster signing meet-and-greet and directions to concerts at Shaker Village and the Beaumont Inn in nearby Harrodsburg. Bands scheduled to appear at this year's GABBF include Zlatne Uste, the River City Youth Brass Band, Dixie Power Trio, Jack Daniels' Silver Cornet Band, the Brass Band of Columbus, Saxton's Cornet Band, Storyville Stompers and the Circle City Sidewalk Stompers. For more info visit www.gabbf.org
The Circle City Sidewalk Stompers
Whether you visit Danville during the GABBF or at any other time of the year there are lots of attractions to take in. Danville is actually considered the birthplace of Kentucky since a series of constitutional conventions that led to statehood took place in what is now called Constitution Square, located right in the heart of downtown. At this state historic site you can see original and replica buildings that represent life in the 1700s, a statue of Revolutionary War hero and first Kentucky governor Isaac Shelby and more.
The Great American Dollhouse Museum
At the Great American Dollhouse Museum you can see over 200 dollhouse and miniature displays, including a fantasyland where witches, gremlins and dragons are found in abundance. Art lovers or just anyone who wants to see a dazzling display will want to stop by the Boyle County Public Library to view the amazing artistry-in-glass of Stephen Powell. You'll see Powell's work immediately upon entering the library; just look up to see a colorful balloon-shaped work. Inside, a couple of Powell's smaller abstract glass pieces are on display in the front of the facility. The McDowell House & Apothecary, a National Historic Landmark, is also located in Danville. Dr. Ephraim McDowell, known as the "father of abdominal surgery," grew up in Danville.
Glass art by Stephen Powell
A unique place to stay in Danville is The Farm, located just a few miles outside the city limits. Danville has a full array of the usual hotel/motel brands, but for something a little different try booking a room at this bed & breakfast, especially if you have kids in tow. Goat milking, the gathering of chicken eggs and playing with mini ponies is all part of the fun for children; adults can enjoy meals prepared with straight-off-the-farm ingredients served in a relaxing rural setting, go for a stroll on one of the marked trails through the crop fields and sit on the inn's large porch to watch the sun go down.
The Stooges Brass Band
For more information on all the above listed Danville attractions visit www.danvillekentucky.com
For help in planning a visit to Kentucky go to www.kentuckytourism.com
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