2018 - Band
On June 1, 1973, Festival, a high-energy big band, began a journey that lasted nearly 28 years, surpassed 4,200 performances and included more than 2 million miles traveled throughout the United States and Canada. The band’s origin stems from the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri. Their base of operation was the Festival Farm near Skidmore, Missouri.
Bandleader Britt Small’s one-of-a-kind vocal styling and showmanship complimented Festival’s driving rhythm section and big brass sound. They played a wide variety of music, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country, funk, and big band swing. A Festival show was more than the just the music. Each performance included comedy, dance routines and audience participation.
Festival played over 530 dates in Iowa, in 94 communities, through the 1970s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and early 2000s, entertaining in nightclubs, ballrooms, high schools, universities, street dances, state conventions, corporate events, county fairs, and the Iowa State Fair. The group claimed a dozen band members from Iowa, with many additional crew members from the state.
Highlighted Iowa performances include ten performances at the Iowa State Fair, six RAGBRAI celebrations, many historical Iowa ballrooms, and over 60 fundraisers, from the Easter Seals and Muscular Dystrophy to Camp Sunnyside and the Iowa State Trooper’s Association. In 1981, Festival recorded their third album, in Otho, Iowa. They would eventually record 18 albums and CDs.
While starting out primarily as a regional band, the group would eventually perform all across the country, from New York City to San Francisco, RFK Stadium, and inside Meramec Cavern, at three World’s Fairs, many State Fairs, seven Las Vegas casinos, and many times in Nashville. The group was honored to sing at both Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves ball games.
After attending the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., in 1982, the group honored America’s veterans and military service personnel during its performances. They performed at the dedication of the Iowa Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1984, the State American Legion Convention, and 13 times in Iowa’s Veteran Homes and VA hospitals.
Britt Small & Festival went on to perform on top of the USS Intrepid, inside the USS Yorktown, on the steps of five State Capitols, twice at Mt Rushmore, twice in front of the US Capitol and twice under the Washington Monument. They performed 32 times in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and are the only music group ever to be invited to sing on top of the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial, something they were asked to do twice. The band was featured entertainment at the dedications of two national memorials and numerous state and city veteran memorial dedications.
Whether remembered as “The Big Band from the Prairie,” “The Brass Band from the Grassland,” “The World’s Funkiest Cowboy Band,” or “The All-American Showband,” an evening with Festival was a feel-good experience that left friends and fans looking forward to the band’s return.