MASON CITY, IA – It’s hard to believe, but the North Iowa Band Festival is only weeks away.
However, this year there is some controversy in the annual event and it’s all surrounding the pick for Grand Marshal. This year, the festival committee named Iowa’s governor to lead the parade.
For some this pick made sense, for others it did not.
“Governor Branstad is a North Iowan, he is our longest serving governor and I think even people who may not approve of his politics should certainly respect the office,” says Robin Anderson, Executive Director of Chamber of Commerce.
“We have been fielding a lot of emails and Facebook messaging about people on our friend lists that are republicans and independents as well that are really taking issue with the fact that our sitting governor who is running for re-election and in an active campaign cycle would be honored with what seems like a lifetime achievement award,” says Dean Genth on the controversy. Governor Branstad is in the midst of campaigning for another term and some say, his leading the parade is a political move in itself.
“His acknowledgement and award of Grand Marshal is a political statement by the Chamber of Commerce and the North Iowa Band Festival in itself in a very big way,” adds Genth.
Anderson disagrees. She says having a political figure in this role is nothing new.
“The festival has a long standing policy of not allowing campaigning in the parade,” she says.
The other argument? Some folks believe that because it is a lifetime achievement award, it should go to someone else in the community, because Branstad has already served as Grand Marshal two previous years, in 1983 and 1988.
“You know, there are people who have given their lives to making Mason City a better place to live and have had great achievements musically in the community that would be a far better choice,” says Genth.
Anderson says that people should not let politics get in the way and lose sight of what this weekend is all about.
“You know, this is a distraction and we need to be you know putting on a great party for our community,” Anderson says.
But no matter the controversy, the show must go on.