According to my mom (who I had to ask because I was too young to remember), my first State Fair of Texas was also the first for the iconic 54 feet tall Big Tex statue who greets fair goers with his “Howdy, Folks” announcements promoting various events and exhibitions. The exhibition is an extravaganza that lasts 24 days beginning on the last Friday of September every year in Dallas at Fair Park. It is reputed to be the largest and most attended of its kind in the world. With the exception of my out of state college years, military service, and when I broke my leg, I have attended every year since. There are not many changes from year to year, but it is always great fun to eat the junk food, see the exhibits, and watch the various shows, like the sheep dog trials and birds of the world, which have been mainstays for quite awhile. In my younger years, I would partake of the midway rides, mostly at the insistence of friends I went with, but it was never my main goal and, being susceptible to motion sickness, the wilder rides were not much fun for me.
The highlight of the State Fair for me in recent years has been the concert the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps performs daily during the first two weeks of the exhibition. Their concert begins each day at 4:00 p.m. (1600 hours in military time) and lasts for about 45 minutes. They play some classical pieces, contemporary popular music, show tunes and movie themes, and, of course. various military marches. Amazingly enough, they play all these pieces in an ensemble of drums, two-valve bugles, tenor bugles (euphoniums), contrabass bugles (tubas), and two xylophones (on wheels, though they do not march with them). This year, for example, they played a Mozart concerto, Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”, Elmer Bernstein’s theme from the John Wayne movie “The Sons of Katie Elder”, “Old Man River” from “Show Boat”, and naturally, Souza’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
These Marines are accomplished musicians – and they are real, sure enough Marines. They audition for the slots that come open, and, if accepted, go to boot camp with other Marine recruits before the are assigned to the Drum & Bugle Corps. That ordeal serves them well. Their precision marching to a lively drum cadence is a pleasure to watch – no heads bobbing up and down – and the musicianship is first class.
The concert they give is also an occasion to present awards to other marines for various accomplishments, and they always have a guest of honor. Before the concert begins, the director inquires if there are any retired or non-active duty Marines in the audience, and request that they stand. This year, he may have made an error in asking if there were any former Marines present. I did not know there was such a thing.
Anyway, if you get a chance, go see the show. If you cannot make this time, I’m sure the Marines will be back for the State Fair next year.