Vikingland Band Festival
The Vikingland Band Festival parade marching championship is held annually in Alexandria, Minnesota on the last Sunday of June. The event was founded in 1985 and is widely regarded as the midwest's biggest and most prestigious summer marching band competition. It is often regarded as the unofficial state championship for parade marching in Minnesota.
The parade features only marching bands. It does not include floats or other units commonly associated with parades. Bands march at a three-block interval to prevent their music from blending together. Alexandria's extra-wide main street provides an outstanding venue for the performances.
A panel of six judges provides taped feedback and scores for each band. Placement awards are presented to every band, with the top band in each class earning the distinction of Class Champion. The overall high scoring band of the day is named the Grand Champion. Each champion band is awarded a traveling flag to carry for one year. If a band wins its champion title for three consecutive years, the band earns the right to keep the flag. Caption awards are presented for the top wind section, percussion section and color guard in each class.
One band is named the "People's Choice" by a panel of non-professional judges.
The Vikingland Band Festival has drawn 85 different bands since its inception in 1985. Participants have come from seven different states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, South Carolina, South Dakota, Michigan), two Canadian provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan), and Norway.
Although many of the performing bands are experienced competitors with long-standing traditions of excellence, the festival welcomes younger bands as well. Organizers believe the education, intensity, and sportsmanship can provide a valuable experience for any band.
The tradition of including non-competing "honor bands" in the parade was started in 1989 as a way to showcase a variety of marching styles. Styles represented have included foreign bands, military bands, bagpipes, drum and bugle corps, and percussion lines.
Eight different bands have earned the title of Grand Champion:
Long Prairie (1985) Henry Sibley High School (1986) Litchfield (1987,1988,1989,1990,1998) Irondale High School (1991,1992,1993,1994,1995,1996) Park Center High School (1997,1999,2001,2003,2007,2008,2011,2012) Mankato 77 Lancers (2000,2002,2010) Waconia (2004,2005,2006,2009) 728 Cadets (2013,2014)
Since 1989 the festival has presented traveling flags to the Grand Champion and Class Champion bands. A band can retire a flag in its honor by winning the title three consecutive years. Two bands have retired Grand Champion flags: Irondale (1993, 1996) and Waconia (2006). Seven bands have retired Class Champion flags: Bertha-Hewitt (1991, 1997), Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (2011), Litchfield (1991, 1994, 1997, 2000), Long Prairie (1995, 1998), Park Center (1999), Sauk Rapids-Rice (2009) and Winona Cotter (1994, 2006, 2009).
Participants and spectators have developed traditions surrounding the event, such as intense last-minute rehearsals, potluck meals along the parade route, and a spirited awards ceremony.
The event has inspired other communities across the state to start similar parade competitions.