Meredith Willson also wrote the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and composed the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” In his honor, the 2023 North Iowa Band Festival will mark the 86th year the event has been held. The event is the largest free marching band competition in the Midwest. Save the date for Memorial Weekend 2023 for North Iowa’s signature event, the North Iowa Band Festival! Scheduled for May 25-29, the festival will celebrate 84 years with the theme ” ” complete with free live entertainment, carnival, marketplace, and of course, the BIG parade! The North Iowa Band Festival is the largest free marching band competition in the Midwest.
Robert Meredith Willson (1902-1984) was born in Mason City, Iowa and had an immensely successful career in the music and entertainment industry as a musician, composer, conductor, arranger, author, and radio personality. While growing up in Mason City, Willson showed great musical promise. After his Mason City High School graduation he went to New York City to study and before long was professionally engaged playing with John Phillip Sousa and then with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. After a stint in the Army, he began working in radio and television. In addition to composing, writing and appearing on television, Willson made concert appearances around the country with his wife Rini, herself a star in the concert, radio and opera business.
In 1938, Meredith became musical director of “Good News Radio Hour” until 1942. It became the number one radio show in the country at that time. in 1945 he joined the George Burns and Gracie Allen show as musical director. In 1950, he composed, “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You.” The inspiration for this song came from Willson’s mother, as it was her parting words to her Sunday school class every week when he was a child. This song was Willson’s biggest hit and was recorded by stars such as Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Frankie Laine, and Tammy Wynette. While in Mason City visit the birthplace and boyhood home of this song writer and playwright of “The Music Man,” which is a restored 1895 modified Queen Ann house.
This community is also legendary as it was the final site of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson’s concert. On February 3, 1959, singer and musician Buddy Holly gave a performance at the Surf Ballroom’s Winter Dance Party in Clear Lake. Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Holly Monument Richardson boarded a private plane at the Mason City Airport to travel to their next engagement. The flight was barely off the ground when icy weather caused the plane to crash in a field near Clear Lake. A memorial to the three rock ‘n’ roll legends stands in the field today, commemorating “The Day the Music Died.”
The Charles H. MacNider Art Museum, is a North Iowa cultural treasure; the museum includes a permanent collection of American art, the famous Bil Baird puppets, and an impressive range of ceramics. Genuinely an active center for the Arts, the museum offers changing exhibits, films, studio classes, special events, Imagination Playground, and a museum shop.
Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 9 AM – 8PM; Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM
Stay overnight at the Historic Park Inn, the last remaining hotel designed by the famous architect and designer, Frank Lloyd Wright. it actually became the prototype for the world-famous Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Frank Lloyd Wright designed six hotels in his lifetime. The prairie school style building with large ribbons of windows and wide overhangs is now a four-star boutique hotel with 27 guest rooms. Listed in the National Registry of Historic Places and recently outfitted with a $20 million renovation, this property offers a unique blend of historical beauty and impressive architecture, along with modern amenities.Docent-led historical tours are also available from Wright on the Park, Inc.