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Ludington Guard Band celebrates 125 years

By Kelsie Hoitomt

The Ludington Guard Band, a community concert band out of Menomonie, is the oldest group of its kind in the state of Wisconsin with their roots tracing back to the late 1870s.

 The birth of the band’s namesake was a Cavalry unit formed in 1877 and it was called the Ludington Guard, named after then governor of Wisconsin, the Honorable Harrison Ludington.

There was a band associated with the regiment from 1877 until the musical group dissolved in the mid 1880s.

The Cavalry unit after about six years from its inception, became Company H of the Third Infantry of the Wisconsin National Guard. After it was dissolved, the band was reorganized in 1888 by former members.

The first director of the new band was Charles Ingraham, an optometrist and jeweler by trade. It was Ingraham who suggested the name Ludington Guard Band for the new band and the rest is history.

To begin with, the band was only open to males aged 16 and older, but World War II saw more and more members being drafted and going off to war. In order to keep the band playing, women were admitted on a trial and temporary basis, but when the war ended they were allowed to stay.

While the first band only had 11 members, today’s band has nearly 60 members from all walks of life and a wide age range. However, there still remains a minimum age of 16, unless other criteria are met.

About half the band is composed of high school and college students and the rest are seasoned players who have been playing for ten to 50 years.

The band plays nine to ten outdoor concerts a summer in the Wilson Park Band Shell located across from the old courthouse near downtown Menomonie. In addition to these concerts, they also perform one or two concerts off site each season; one of which is at Peterson’s Valley View Farm in Glenwood City.

This year will be the 14th time the band has played in Glenwood City during Petersons’ “Concert in the Country”.

Concerts last approximately 90 minutes and feature a wide range of music. Marches, overtures, classical concert band pieces, contemporary pieces, show tunes and novelty numbers are performed almost every week.

There are four concert staples; the flag raising ceremony usually done by a scout troop or the Menomonie Honor Guard, a children’s march, intermission entertainment and a pie and ice cream social.

Under conductor James Woodford, the Ludington Guard Band will perform this Thursday, June 20 at the Peterson Valley View Farm at 7:00 p.m.

A few other unique events will take place in the month of July in Menomonie starting with their annual patriotic concert on July 2, the annual circus night on July 16 and on July 23 there will be a concert dedicated to Paula Kruger-Utphall and her family after they sponsored one of the concerts.

Lastly, the official 125th anniversary celebration will be on July 30 where a special piece called “Legacy of Honor” will be performed under the conduction by Larry Clark, Vice President of the famed Carl Fischer Publishing Company in New York City. .