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Bringing history back to life

Story by Carl Grover of Mason City –

east_park_band_shell_easley_2011With the tenacity of a mean mother bear protecting her cubs it appears that the feisty Janice Easley has in fact “saved the Historic East Park Band Shell”.

While the battle to save this band shell has raged for several years the movement caught its 2nd wind with a grassroots protest in the form of a free concert called “The Bandshell Blues” featuring Paul Mayasich and the Benderheads.

The idea to hire a band to play in the band shell originally came from the mind of my then, 13 year old nephew Blake McGuire. With food provided by the McGuire family over $300 was raised and more than 300 signatures were collected on a petition to save the band shell.

This is where I met and danced with Janice Easley for the first time. I knew right away she was a spitfire but I was even shocked when she pretty much single-handedly turned those 300 signatures into well over 3000.

Her persistence helped turn the tide of public opinion and with the strong support of that tireless ‘behind the scenes’ guy, Craig Binnebose, these efforts eventually led to several donations, grants and most importantly, getting the band shell listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

And now here we are today. After a long and arduous battle the oldest band shell in Iowa is finally coming back to life. It has a new roof, a new stage and as a testament to the simplicity of true elegance, the façade is beginning to resemble its original design.

It’s safe to say that this may not have been possible if it wasn’t for Ed Wineinger of Waggoner & Wineinger Architects. Their generous donation of time and talents to help restore what is arguably a strong part of our musical and cultural heritage deserves much more than a simple thank you. But thank you anyway.

Curries Company of Mason City also deserves a nod of thanks for donating 3 new steel doors for this project. It seems only fitting that these two legacies should come together.

While rifts in the community are never a good thing, it would be my hope that everyone will appreciate the end result and recognize this hidden jewel as she begins to shine.

Hopefully, next year when the band shell is fully restored we can have another Band Shell Blues. And Janice, save the last dance for me.

The East Park band shell in 1924:

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