by Mike Nistler
I had to work both the night of July 3 and on our nation’s birthday the next day.
Before you cue the violins and feel sorry for me, let me just say it wasn’t that bad.
My job was to take pictures and write a story about the festivities surrounding the Joetown Rocks musical offerings and the Fourth of July Parade and other events of the Parish of St. Joseph Festival.
It was actually more fun than work.
At Joetown Rocks, my camera allowed me to wander right up to the stage to take pictures of the local musicians playing with the Fabulous Armadillos and Collective Unconscious. Those two groups had joined forces for a “Takin’ it to the Limits Tribute to the Eagles.”
The show is fantastic and I’ve heard it a handful of times now at different central Minnesota venues. However, to hear and see the group perform in front of 15,000 fans on a picture-perfect July evening was a real treat.
Being up front by the stage, I got to experience the music like never before. For one thing, I could feel the pounding of the bass coming through the gigantic speakers. And I was so close I could almost reach out and touch Paul “Stretch” Diethelm, keyboardist Greg Armstrong, vocalist Billy Scherer and Jeff Engholm, lead singer and local celebrity. Engholm owns the Local Blend and his band mates joked that for the night he was “the mayor of St. Joe.”
And my experience got even better when I was walking away from the stage through the crowd and was greeted by musical legend Bobby Vee. Vee spotted me, smiled, got out of his chair and gave me a hug.
It was nice to see him and to chat. I first met Vee several years ago when he was turning 50 and I wrote a story about him for a newspaper article. For that story, I got to interview another musical legend, Dick Clark. What a thrill.
On the day of the parade, while thousands of people had lined up early to view the parade from special places along the route, I was able to saunter down to the event just minutes before it began. Once again, my camera allowed me to walk along the route, into the street and up close to the floats, bands and other entries.
I almost felt bad doing that, half expecting to be stopped by security at some point and told to sit down.
But this family-friendly event is just that. No one told me to sit down or get out of their way. I was respectful not to stay in any one area too long to avoid just that. But on this day, everyone seemed extra nice and eager to enjoy the great event and great weather.