Marching bands in Minnesota seek guidance as parade season nears

The Milaca High School marching bands hope they can play parades this summer, but they need updated guidance from the Department of Health first.

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen in the state and around the country, high school marching bands want to make sure they are not forgotten when it comes to their upcoming summer parade circuit.

Some band directors are working to get the current rules in Minnesota changed.

The Milaca High School marching band isn’t sure if anyone will actually see their show this summer, which Band Director Andrew Nelson calls "frustrating to say the least."

While playing instruments as part of a marching band isn’t prohibited in the state under COVID-19 restrictions, current Minnesota Department of Health requirements say the band can’t perform on a public street or other public right of way, meaning the summer parade circuit is on hold for now.

"It’s a big deal here," said Nelson. "There are thousands of kids in Minnesota who participate in summer marching band that do parade marching."

A study last fall by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that wind instruments don’t usually spread aerosols farther than 1 foot. Putting masks over instruments and social distancing can help, which is something Milaca students have been vigilant about.

Not being able to march outdoors with those safety guards in place is disappointing.

"A lot of kids in marching band might not be in a sport or other activities, so they haven’t been able to do anything all year and, being in marching band could be like, this is what we do. This is what we are," said Nicole Nelson, a junior in the band.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the guidelines for marching bands are being updated in the very near future, but the band director at Milaca says the clock is ticking.

"This is all timely," said Nelson. "This stuff has to happen. We need to know now. Community entities, these parades, they need to know now."