Saturday, February 13, 2016

Army Sgt. Tom Lindsey of the United States Army Field Band Volunteers, plays guitar and adds vocals during a concert Wednesday evening at McNaughton Park's Band Shell. (Truth Photo By Mark Shephard) (Mark Shephard)
Military band’s performance in Elkhart silenced by federal cuts
Posted on July 2, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 2, 2013 at 1:06 p.m.

ELKHART — Wondering why Elkhart’s Fourth of July fireworks are on Wednesday and not a day later on Independence Day?

The city’s park department had envisioned a big doubleheader featuring a U.S. Army Field Band followed by fireworks at Rice Field.

To accommodate the band, though, the parks department had to schedule the fireworks show for Wednesday, according to parks superintendent Karin Frey.

But in late April, the city was informed that band would not be available because of sequestration cuts, Frey said.

The $85 billion in sequestration cuts were part of a package set forth by negotiators and later approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The wide range of cuts include local services such as meals on wheels to cuts in aviation, but have also affected numerous services provided by the military such as air shows and military bands.

After learning the band would not be available, Frey looked into several other bands, including a National Guard band from Indianapolis and others in Chicago and Michigan, but they’ve also been silenced as a result of the cuts.

Officials did not consider shifting the program to July 4 because advertising had already been finalized weeks earlier, Frey said.

City officials have become somewhat fond of the regular Army Band and the Army Field Band in recent years in part because the bands don’t charge anything and provide top-notch musical entertainment.

The bands have performed three times in recent years in Elkhart, Frey said.

This year’s setback was very disappointing, Frey said, in part because it represented an opportunity for Elkhart area residents to celebrate the nation’s birthday with the Armed Forces, Frey said.

“They’ve done a fantastic job for us in the past,” Frey said.

Frey said the city did not lose any money as a result of the cancelation because the band performs for free.

Despite the cancelation, Frey said they will continue to consider using the army bands in the future.

“It’s just unfortunate for this year,” Frey said. “I think people will certainly understand it. It’s not like we’re not going to have a band.”

The parks department was able to arrange for Rachel and the Blue Rays will provide entertainment. The band is from South Bend and performs a mix of blues, jazz and pop music, she said.

The city’s fireworks celebration will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Central High School’s Rice Field. There is a $1 admission fee.

The city has tried various approaches to admission in the past, including $5 for car loads, but decided to go with the $1 fee per person this year.

Instead of trying to collect admission feess along the street, Frey said the department will use two ticket booths at Rice Field to collect admissions this year, Frey said.