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Geauga County Fair Band Celebrates 75 years

Burton – Geauga County Fair Band celebrates their 75th year as they perform at the 191st Great Geauga County Fair (GGCF) this Labor Day Weekend.  The band is the only all-volunteer fair band in Ohio and was organized by Cliff Rossiter after the 1936 fair. They first performed at the 1938 Great Geauga County Fair, under the direction of Azro Cheney and have performed at every fair since that time.

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Current members donning band uniform jackets of years gone by to the one they use today. pictured left to right are Erica Cooper modeling a majorette outfit from the 1940’s. Band Director Greg Hillis Models a John Phillips Sousa jacket made for him, Dennis Dodd models the 1984-1998 Burgundy uniform, Charter member Barbara Ricca models 1971-1983 jacket, 1956-1970 uniform jacket is Kathy Caldwell, Brick Bates is wearing the 1945- 1955 uniform jacket Models the current band jacket, and Natalie Flack models the 1970- 1983 jacket. note the uniforms being shown are only the jackets. Matching blue, gray, Burgundy or black uniform pants were worn with the jacket, depending on the year.

The band is comprised of residents from seven counties and currently has about 75 active members.  They practice one day a week from about late- March until Labor Day preparing for the season. They are currently under the direction of Greg Hillis. Who is the band’s 12th director and has been directing them since 2004. Hillis also directs the Geauga County Junior Fair Band as well.
In the early years, the band played mostly marches and the played exclusively at the GGCF.  One used to see them in the grandstand performing before most events that were held in the grand stand, resulting in many performances throughout the day. Over the years, the band out grew that venue and in 1995 they moved to the Vernon Howard Pavilion on the fair grounds and reduced their performances to just two a day during the fair. They may have reduced the times they play at the fair and have expanded their genre of music to include marches, show tunes, contemporary classics, patriotic songs, T.V. and movie themes and more. Besides the expanded genre of music, they also play at more events than just the fair. One can now hear them at area festivals, community events, and concerts all over Northeastern Ohio. All concerts are family–friendly.
The band has members of all ages, ranging from teens to retirees, in fact they boast about having a charter member still playing in the band. Newbury resident, Barbara Ricca has been playing her trumpet with the band since its inception in 1938. She was only 15 years old when she joined and continues to play with them today.
They were recently seen performing at the Cuyahoga County Fair, Maple Heights Parade, Chesterland Square and in Andover. Besides the GGCF they will also be performing on October 13th in Bainbridge. Their schedule for the GGCF is August 29, 2013, 3pm & 8pm, August 30th  3pm & 7pm August 31st 1pm & 7pm, September 1st 3pm & 7pm and September 2nd, 1pm & 4 :30 pm.  Come out to the fair and hear the Great Geauga County Fair Band perform and see why 75 years later they are still going strong.

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Denise Bly has been a correspondent for the Weekly Villager for five years. She also does the public relations for Garrettsville SummerFest and the Garrettsville Area Chamber. In her spare time, she can be found at most local events, especially J.A. Garfield’s, high school and middle school athletic and musical events. When not out and about in the community, she can be found at home reading, sewing, cooking and spending time with her family.