Long before flash mobs were fashionable, Scott Crosbie created a “flash band,” showing up at the first Edina Parade as well as making surprise visits to church socials, park gazebos or just creating an impromptu parade somewhere. “A police car would join us in the back with its lights on. Everyone thought someone else must have ordered the band,” Crosbie says. “It was great fun.”
The First John Phillip Sousa Memorial Band formed in 1970 when Crosbie and fellow Edina High School Band graduates bought 50 used band uniforms for $150 and 10 marches for $3 apiece. In 1972, Crosbie approached the Edina Lions with an idea to fix up an old flatbed trailer to make a traveling bandstand. The Lions took out a mortgage and bought it. The band was quickly adopted by city manager Warren Hyde and Parks and Recreation director Ken Rosland and given a budget for music, costumes and a place to rehearse. When Centennial Lakes Park was in the planning stages, city representatives made certain the band had a permanent band room for rehearsals, uniforms and a library.
Fifty-two years later, the Sousa Band is an Edina institution—as is Crosbie. The 45-member all-volunteer band is dedicated to the “exciting tradition of the American concert band.” The group has performed almost 1,000 concerts in Edina and elsewhere, including their long-term gig one Sunday a month September–May at Edinborough Park’s Indoor Amphitheater. It has performed at every Edina Fourth of July fireworks event since 1973 (except for rainouts and pandemic cancellations). The fifes and drums play at 8 p.m. every year, with the full concert beginning at 8:45 p.m. in Rosland Park.
The Sousa Band also performs its annual Torchlight Concert every August at the Centennial Lakes Amphitheater. This event, which drew an estimated 3,000 attendees in 2021, owes its existence to a sale on tiki torches: “In July 1999, Menards was selling tiki torches for $1 each. We bought 80, and the annual Torchlight Concert was born,” Crosbie says. “It has grown in size and popularity and now includes over 300 torches, a dozen Model T Fords, the Model Boat Club, 25-cent ice cream cones, a Wurlitzer Band Organ, Italian organ grinder, 5-cent balloons, a magician, ‘penny-farthing’ bicycles and a mechanical man.”
This year, the event will take place on August 14. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. on the promenade. The Sousa Band starts at 8:30 p.m., ending with a Stars and Stripes Forever fireworks finale. “Everyone leaves with band music in their hearts and a feeling that, after all, we are still a great American family,” Crosbie says.
Crosbie established the Torchlight Concert as a Community Impact Fund of the Edina Community Foundation in 2011 to secure charitable support of community organizations and businesses. Full details for the 2022 Torchlight Concert can be found at sousaband.net.
Contributed by the Edina Community Foundation.