Pohligs serve as grand marshals during the Vikingland Band Festival

Marching band's inclusive nature means 'nobody is sitting on the bench," Kathleen Pohlig says.

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Bruce and Kathleen Pohlig sit at a piano in their home on Lake Carlos. They have been chosen to be the grand marshals for this year’s Vikingland Band Festival in Alexandria. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Kathleen and Bruce Pohlig have the unique honor of serving as the grand marshals of the Vikingland Band Festival not just for one, but for two years.

Chosen in 2020 for the 36th annual festival, they never got their chance to serve, as the festival was canceled because of the pandemic. However, they are getting a second chance, as the Vikingland Band Festival is set for Sunday, June 27. The bands will march through downtown Alexandria starting at 1:30 p.m.

“I was very surprised and happy and think it’ll be a fun thing,” Kathleen said about the moment she first learned that she and her husband had been chosen. Their grandchildren are coming to watch, and the youngest ones are especially excited that grandma and grandpa get to be in a parade, she said.

The Pohligs were chosen for the honor because of their extensive support and involvement in music, youth and the community for so many years.

Greg DeGier, chair of the Vikingland Band Festival Committee, called the couple “truly remarkable citizens who help make good things happen for Alexandria.”


He added, “They are so gracious and often work quietly in the background, so we are thrilled to recognize and thank them for their efforts.”

The Pohligs have lived in Alexandria for more than 45 years and their three kids — Christine, Jeff and Rebecca — participated in the school’s music programs. Their daughters belonged to the marching band and got the chance to take big trips, one to Washington, D.C., and the other to the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, where it was named Fiesta Bowl Grand Champion.

Kathleen said she and Bruce also played instruments in band when they were in high school. He played trumpet and she played clarinet and bass clarinet — and a drum, which was easier to play than the clarinet at some performances. They both sing; he’s bass, she’s alto; and the whole family performed in South Pacific at the Quad A.

Together, the Pohligs worked to raise more than $2 million toward the construction of the new Alexandria Area High School, and directly supported the purchase of special acoustic flooring in the band and orchestra rooms. They also made donations through the Alexandria Education Foundation for the purchase of band and orchestra instruments and a new piano for the choir room.

Most recently, the Pohligs helped raise more than $400,000 to ensure that Andria Theatre would survive the pandemic.

Bruce and Kathleen served on the Vikingland Band Festival committee in the 1990s during the inception of the drum and bugle corps field competition.

Kathleen said it was fun working with Ken Martinson to start the drum corps. Martinson did most of the organizing, she said.

“I remember him saying to the initial committee we have to do this really well because we want them to have a great experience and want to come back.”


So they made sure that participants had nice places to stay and good food to eat, and participants returned, year after year.

During the first year, the Jefferson High School ground crew had to paint the bleacher seats with the number corresponding to the tickets sold, so every attendee knew exactly which seat they were buying.

Alas, wires got crossed, and the seats were accidentally painted in reverse order. So the day before the event, Kathleen and others were busy putting up the correct numbers.

Afterward, she teased the groundskeeper by writing him a note in mirror writing — which he had to read in reverse.

Marching band has a place in her heart because it’s open to everybody, she said.

“It’s such a great activity for kids because everybody participates. It’s a giant team and nobody is sitting on the bench. … Everybody was out on the street and we liked supporting that.”

Kathleen served three terms on the Alexandria School Board, chaired the Alexandria Festival of the Lakes chamber music series for more than 20 years, and now operates Cherry Street Books in downtown Alexandria.

Bruce led Continental Bridge for many years, producing bridges that are now found in thousands of locations across the country. He has also worked with Habitat for Humanity and currently chairs the Community Giving Board in St. Cloud which is the umbrella organization for the Alexandria Area Community Foundation.


Because of the pandemic, most marching bands across Minnesota missed an entire season of training, recruiting and performing. Details for the 2021 season have been uncertain even until this month when restrictions and health guidance began to ease.

“The past year has been extremely challenging for band directors and students,” DeGier said. “This year’s parade will be a celebration of the resilient students and directors who have been able to emerge from the pandemic.”

For more information and updates visit .

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Kathleen and Bruce Pohlig point to their daughter in a photograph of the Jefferson High School Marching Band at the 1992 National Independence Day Parade in Washington D.C. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

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