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The leader of the bands

Jim Eidsvold has been named grand marshal of 2012 Vikingland Band Festival. Eidsvold is holding a cup from the 1994 Fiesta Bowl - the Alexandria High School Marching Band was named grand champion of that parade. He and his wife, Anne, were chaperones on that trip. (Photo by Tara Bitzan)1 / 2
The 212th Regiment performed at last year's Vikingland Band Festival. (Echo Press file photo)2 / 2

The Vikingland Band Festival (VBF) committee recently announced that Jim Eidsvold of Alexandria was named grand marshal of the 2012 VBF parade marching championship.

Eidsvold was selected for the honor because of his dedication to the festival and to the Jefferson High School (JHS) Marching Band.

The honoree served on the board of the JHS Band Boosters in the 1990s and was instrumental in raising funds for new band uniforms. As owner of Henry's Foods, Eidsvold has supported the VBF by donating food and water for all participating band members for the past several years.

"Jim exemplifies a long-standing commitment to Alexandria and the marching band, and he has enriched the lives of countless music students and community members," said Greg DeGier, committee chair.

As grand marshal, Eidsvold will lead the 28th annual VBF parade beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 24. The parade will feature 19 marching bands from across Minnesota, including the JHS Marching Band, which serves as the host band.


As a youth, Jim Eidsvold played the trombone in a highly successful band program in Morris.

"I will never forget that experience," he said. "It really gave me a sense of discipline and taught me precision, which is a great skill to have. It took a lot of practice and teamwork. You're only as good as your weakest link. Being part of something like that instills life-long learning skills."

After moving to Alexandria in 1990, it was a natural fit for Eidsvold to become a supporter of the local marching band program in which his two children, Sarah and Philip, took part.

He was active with the JHS Band Boosters and worked to raise funds to purchase new uniforms for the band in the early 1990s.

"We outfitted 350 students with new uniforms," he recalled. "I will never forget all the service clubs, banks, businesses and individuals who stepped up to the plate to help with that project."

He added that it has been that same strong community support that has helped the VBF evolve into one of the finest marching band competitions in the state.

"It truly takes a community to build a successful program such as this," Eidsvold said. "It was a school-community partnership and the doors were wide open. Things like this don't happen without someone stepping forward and saying 'we'll give'.

"It also couldn't have been done without some dedicated leadership," he added. "The Alexandria Marching Band program has had some outstanding leadership and dedication through the years to make it not only one of the best in Minnesota but also the country."

Eidsvold also paid credit to the parents who have been involved through the years.

"It takes intentional involvement from the parents for a program like this to work," he said. "They have to invest the time to care for and shepherd the program and support the kids and the directors.

"Let's face it - we're doing it for the children, but it's also quite fun and challenging for the parents also."


A great memory Eidsvold and his wife, Anne, have is of chaperoning the band trip to the 1994 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. About 350 students, staff and 20-plus chaperones took part.

"These trips provide an incredible experience for young people," Eidsvold said. "Many of them had never traveled or been on a plane before.

"A lot of work went into preparing for that," he added. "The kids couldn't get outside to practice and had to practice indoors (the trip was in December/January) so when we got there they spent three days practicing. They had fun, but were pretty serious. They knew they had a job to do. They were competing against bands from all over the country and they wanted to do the best they could."

Eidsvold said that after the competition was over but before the award ceremony, the parade was replayed on TV. The kids gathered in hotel rooms to watch their performance.

"After it was over, they all came out of their rooms cheering," he said. "They didn't even know at that point if they'd won anything, but they were so happy with their performance. You can't tell me those students are ever going to forget that experience.

"It was an amazing moment - one I will never forget."

What made it even more memorable was that the band was later named the Fiesta Bowl Grand Champion.

"There is a lot of hard work and planning that goes into a program like this," Eidsvold said. "But what it all comes down to is that we're doing it for the kids, and at the end the day it has to be fun."

BitzanTara Bitzan Tara Bitzan is a lifelong Douglas County resident. She obtained a degree in Mass Communications/Print Journalism and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She joined the Echo Press in 1991 and currently serves as the Life/Variety/Special Projects editor. She lives in rural Douglas County with her husband, Dennis, and their daughters, Courtney and Cayla. Follow Life Editor Tara Bitzan on Twitter at @TBitzan.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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