Steve Connell

The longtime band director of a northwestern Iowa high school is retiring this month and his band’s final march could set a new world’s record.

Steve Connell is in his last days as director of the Pride of the Dutchmen Marching Band at MOC-Floyd Valley Senior High School in Orange City. At this weekend’s tulip festival, all previous band members are being invited to return to march and play.

“It’s one of the more unique things that happens in the country,” Connell says. “People who haven’t played their horns for 20 years or 30 years or 40 years get their horns out and without any practice, they line up on the street and march just like they did when they were 18 years old.” After 42 years of waving the baton, Connell is retiring at month’s end, so this will be his final time leading the marching band comprised of current students and alumni.

“Since it’s my retirement, there’s just a lot people who are going to come back,” Connell says. “I’ve probably taught two- or three-thousand kids and a lot of them are coming back to march in this alumni band for the last time.” Based on the cards, letters, emails, phone calls and social media postings, Connell says this year’s band will be like none other and will include many hundreds, perhaps thousands of his former students. He says it could set a new world’s record for pick-up marching band performances.

“We’ve played the same song for probably 40 years now,” Connell says. “Everybody knows the song. We’re doing the same twirling routine. We’re doing the same flag routine. They all know those things. They come back and form on the street. There’s no practice involved. When they march down the street, you would think they’ve been practicing for months.”

That song is known as “Championship” and it was originally used on the CBS TV program “NFL Today” some four decades ago. Connell says the alumni band is a wonderful tradition that’s been enjoyed for decades.

“When you’re 60 years old, not many people can go back and relive that great high school basketball game they had with their friends or that great football championship they had. You just can’t do it,” Connell says. “But you can still get out your horn and relive a high school memory that was important to you and I think that’s what’s bringing people back.”

The big band is scheduled to march down Orange City’s Central Avenue at 6:30 P.M. Saturday to close out the city’s annual Tulip Festival.