COBWEB CORNERS: Visits from the March King

By Mel McFarland

       There are many famous visitors to this area. This is the story of one who, like others, came here to get away from the bright lights. In the early days it was easier than now.
       The funny part is that the newspapers of 100 years ago nearly fought to be the first to say who of importance was staying in an area hotel. Barons of industry, stars of the stage (screen was yet to come) and important politicians came here to relax. Today they still do, and it is the visual media that works to get the story.
       Teddy Roosevelt visited here before, during and after being the nation's president. He had several close friends here, and regularly stayed in their homes. His favorite diversion was coming to Colorado to hunt. Well, this story is not about him, but someone else equally as famous at the time.
       This man came here first from an invitation. In the 1890s it was popular to have a city band. Many local businesses had one too. One of the best known local groups was the Colorado Midland Railroad's band. It was made up, as were most of the other bands, from ordinary people who worked other jobs during the day. They eventually held local concerts at area bandshells on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
       The Midland band even traveled to the east for special parades, like the inauguration of the president in Washington, D.C. It was on one of these trips that a leader of another well-known band was invited to come west.
        John Philip Sousa was the director of the United States Marine Corps Band. He traveled with his band on at least two occasions to the Pikes Peak region.
       On one of those, after the concert with his band was finished, the Colorado Midland band was led on and he directed them. Sousa wrote many of the nation's finest pieces of march music, but the Colorado Midland also had local composers who turned out interestingly titled marches. (Unfortunately, much of this music has been lost.) "Stars and Stripes," "El Capitan," and other Sousa classics were heard, along with Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods marches.
        Sousa returned to the area many more times. Performances were rarely done, however. He stayed at the Antlers and the Broadmoor, taking carriage rides into the mountains to enjoy the music the mountain breezes make.