OWATONNA — It’s been nearly 80 years since twin sisters Edith and Jean Zamboni donned matching marching uniforms for the Owatonna Senior High School band, but the memories they share still burn as bright as yesterday. More specifically, the Zamboni girls still carry fond feelings for their director, the one and only Harry Wenger.
The sisters graduated from Owatonna Senior High School in 1942. While in school, they were proud majorettes in the marching band that was led and directed by Wenger, who had yet to become a renowned inventor with the introduction of his sousaphone chair. Beyond school, however, the twins lived next door to the beloved “Music Man” of Owatonna.
“He was just a wonderful guy,” Jean said dotingly. “Mr. Wenger, as we still refer to him, was truly a nice person.”
“And he wasn’t just like that at school, but he was like that in the whole town,” Edith added. “He was so friendly, so easy to talk to, and so interested in everyone and how they were doing. He was special. We’re happy just to have known Harry Wenger.”
This weekend, the former majorettes will return to the Owatonna marching band scene as the parade marshals of the Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival — an honor that has them both surprised and humbled.
“I thought, ‘Why us?’” Jean laughed. “I figured maybe it’s because we’ve lived this long.”
“We might just be the oldest living marching band members,” Edith added, giggling with her sister as if they were once again school girls preparing for their first parade.
All jokes aside, the twins are excited for the experience to be marshals in a festival that honors both a man they admired and an activity they dearly loved.
“We were so proud of the way we marched. It was real military style back then,” Edith said as Jean reminded her that it was always toe first. “We would practice early in the morning, and Harry would arrange all these counter marchers that now they use at the University. And Harry — he always marched with us.”
“It was a wonderful experience,” Jean added. “One year our band was invited to the State Fair and we took second place. The parades were always fun, but sometimes at the big ones in St. Paul we would be the main band. We all thought that was just wonderful.”
Edith and Jean both stated that they are looking forward to the festival — especially the reserved seats they will have in a VIP section near the judges. They admitted that they aren’t quite sure what to expect, but that it will be an honor to have the chance to be involved.
“It’s a new adventure for us,” Edith joked. “We’re surprised, but we’re excited.”
“We just enjoyed all our years in the band with Mr. Wenger,” Jean added, bringing it back to the man that made it all possible. “We all really loved him.”
The 10th annual Harry Wenger Marching Band Festival will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 15. The route begins on Lincoln Avenue South at the intersection with Prospect Street heading north towards East Main Street. The parade will then head west on Main towards South Cedar Avenue, ending at the intersection of Cedar and East Mill Street.