Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do you stick around for the Oom-pah-pah?

Do you just breeze through the touristy little shops and say you saw the community where you’ve just visited? Aw, come on, you know there’s more to even the most tourist-oriented towns than just the stores with gee-gaws and gadgets, and if you take the time to find out, you may find your own little oom-pah-pah band. I did this fall when I stopped in Red Lodge, Montana.

Thanks to local historian and retired librarian Bob, I learned why the brass band was entertaining shoppers at the farmers market on Main Street Red Lodge.

Bob told me that Red Lodge is a hodge podge, a melting pot of nationalities who came to the region to make a fortune at mining. Italians, Scandinavians, Scottish and Germans settled in the area.

On their own, back before the days of tax-supported humanities and cultural programs were mandated, the folks of Red Lodge, on their own started a Festival of Nations. Each ethnic group featured their native dress, food and music to bridge the cultures with the other ethnicities.

Now, on Saturday mornings, such as the one in which I was there in September, bands such as the German band are tooting their horns while customers shop the food stands at the farmers market.

Underneath the evergreens, next the big mural of a map of the Red Lodge area I found the German band with their shiny brass instruments. There among the flowers and the brick, I found a perfect visual sample of what it means to travel on two-wheels on two-lanes with one camera. It’s something you don’t find in the convenience stores or tourist traps. It’s authentic history alive today.

More of the photos are on my website, mykuhlsphotography.com.

Oh, and don’t be surprised, if you’re a biker and some elderly and classy lady pedals up on her little bicycle and parks it in between your motorcycles for protection.

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