The Down Home Band will be the feature entertainment at this year’s Old Timers’ Day on Aug. 19. The band will play traditional brass band music with hearts that love the traditions and heritage of times gone by on the Key Peninsula.
Since 1990, the Down Home Band has delighted KP residents from its first appearance in the Pioneer Day parades and year after year performing at Old Timers’ Day. Just as Old Timers’ Day honors the traditions and heritage of the peninsula, so, too, does the Down Home Band. The band replicates the original Home Band Association that played for dances on the peninsula about 100 years ago. The Down Home Band is a brass band of 15 to 20 musicians who play music that was popular with their predecessors.
“I wanted kids to have the opportunity to hear that music,” says Dr. William Roes, director and founder of the Down Home Band. He believes it is important for today’s audiences to hear and recognize Souza marches like “Stars and Stripes Forever.” He thinks there is little opportunity for today’s kids to hear that music.
Two doctors of the Key Peninsula started the first Down Home Band that played in a Pioneer Day parade. Dr. John Olsson, Key Center dentist, helped Dr. Roes organize some kids to march in the parade. They wore tie-dye shirts and played kazoos. By the second parade, the band acquired some older members and more traditional instruments. They built floats and changed their name occasionally to reflect the theme of their events. They have been known on occasion as the Down Home Slug Band, the Down Home Pirate Band and the Down Home Keep Clam Band.
Today, the band members include doctors, teachers, high school students and retired seniors. But a showcase member of the band is its huge bass drum, modeled after the one featured in pictures of the original Home Band Association.
Having a large drum for the band was recognized as an essential ingredient by Tom and Edie Morgan, who happened to have such a drum serving as a coffee table in their living room. Because the drum was missing the part beat with the drum sticks, a band member traded her violin for some skins. Once the skins were in place, the band painted the name on its face, just like the old Home Band Association.
The Down Home Band is just one example of the musical entertainment at Old Timers’ Day; others include the Key Singers and the High Plains Drifters. There will be music in the air, while loggers compete and demonstrate their skills felling trees and bucking up loads of wood. There will also be plenty of prizes to be won at the raffle, auctions and for kids at their games. The theme for the day is “down home fun with simple good food, good music and good times.”
The proceeds from the event benefit the Key Peninsula Community Services, which provides a food bank and senior citizens’ programs. Many of the seniors volunteer for this event. Executive Director Linda Hubbard says, “It is always a special time for us and for those who go there, too. The people that have been going to it over the years keep coming back. It has become a tradition for families.”
Hubbard says each year they try to make interesting additions, but mostly people come to have an old-fashion good time and to see their neighbors. “They come to see their doctor play a musical instrument,” Hubbard says.