Volunteers Make Kid Day, Band Festival Special

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Volunteers Make Kid Day, Band Festival Special


by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News


Successful community events don’t just happen. They take a lot of hard work and dedication. They take people willing to sacrifice their free time for their community, often with very little thanks. While everyone else is sitting back and enjoying the day, they are scurrying around to make sure all the bases are covered and handling those inevitable little problems that pop up.

In the past month, Benson has put on two major community events: the 30th annual Pioneerland Band Festival and the 87th annual Kid Day. These events don’t just happen. And, inevitably, they reach critical points where those who have organized and overseen them for years need to pass the responsibility on to others. These are critical times in an event’s history that can mean their end or their continued success.

We have been extremely fortunate as a community in having people willing to step in when the calls go out for new leadership.

Back in 2014, the Benson Area Chamber of Commerce bowed out of organizing the Pioneerland Band Festival after 27 years as its membership fell. It was a crucial time in the festival’s history. Bringing 10 to 14 bands from around the state to Benson each June 14 (Flag Day) takes a lot of preparation and organization. Who would do it?

Fortunately, Benson High School’s Director of Bands Brock Duncan and Choir Director Shelly Mikkelson stepped up to coordinate the band festival and organize volunteers. Members of the Benson Music Boosters helped them. The City of Benson stepped in, as it has in the past, with staff and financial help.

Kid Day was started back in 1931 during the Great Depression as a way to give the community’s kids something to celebrate at a bleak time in the nation’s economy. The community celebration has been conducted every year since 1931 with the exception of 1946 when a polio outbreak caused city leaders to cancel it.

It, too, faced a time for reorganization when the Chamber bowed out three years ago. Again, who would step up and take on the challenge of running the Kid Day ensuring the parade, carnival, and other events continued for the area’s children? That is when Benson Elementary teacher Roger Ebnet stepped in.

When he found out that the Chamber was dropping out of the Kid Day event, he called then Benson Mayor Paul Kittelson telling him, “I’m interested. Can we meet?’”

But Ebnet was interested in more than just keeping Kid Day going – he wanted to make it better. He had seen it slowly decline as the Chamber’s ability to find the volunteers to handle all the responsibilities declined.

“It was bothering me that they were going to be done with Kid Day and I didn’t like where it was going,” he told the Monitor-News in 2014.  The elimination of the Kid Day officials – the chief of police, mayor, fire chief, judges – bothered him. To him, it was feeling less and less like Kid Day he once knew. He wanted to see it revitalized as well as include the Kid Day officials again. Through his energy and dedication, Kid Day has continually improved.

While we mention these few names as central to keeping Kid Day and the Pioneerland Festival going they will be the first ones to tell you that they receive an immense amount of help from a host of dedicated volunteers. No one or two people could ever take responsibility for the success of a community event – it is a team effort. But at the same time, we know how crucial it is to have those key individuals who step up at critical times to take charge.

For all their time and dedication, the many volunteers who make Kid Day and the Pioneerland Band Festival successful their only reward is the personal satisfaction that they have done something for the people of their community that makes it a special place to live.

There is a reward when you get a smile on your face reading comments like the one former Benson resident Jim Lund writes in a letter to the editor this week about how excited his granddaughter Opal is to come to Benson each year for Kid Day. There is a reward in seeing the people line the streets of the community with their chairs, saving a space for the Pioneerland Band Festival parade the next day – and then seeing the streets lined with people anticipating seeing and hearing the competing bands.

We want to acknowledge those who give their time and energy to making the Pioneerland Band Festival and Kid Day such great community events. They deserve a big “Thank You!” from all of us. They also would likely welcome any new volunteers willing to pitch in next year to help coordinate and work the events.


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