The History of Harvest of Harmony
The parade's roots started back in 1938 when Chamber members decided to organize an event to promote goodwill among the area small towns. That first parade, which was initially named the Central Nebraska Music Festival, was a rousing success with eight bands and 13 floats. An estimated 10,000 people were watching from the streets of Grand Island.
Just as the event was getting started, World War II began. The parade ceased in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945, due to gas rationing. Once the war ended, the parade resumed in 1946 with a new name, was changed to Harvest of Harmony, and added the ever-popular Miss Harvest of Harmony Pageant.
Over the years, Harvest of Harmony has grown into one of Nebraska's largest events, televised live on TV. The culmination of the parade's popularity was evident in 1996 as Harvest of Harmony broke an existing record and claimed a spot in the Guinness Book of Records as "highest number of bands marching in a parade" with 130 bands.
As for those original eight bands that began in 1938… they've been back each and every year.
Harvest of Harmony Today
Every year, the parade has a theme meant to represent Grand Island and the current development taking place in the community. Area communities, businesses, clubs, service organizations and individuals can participate by entering a decorated float relating to the parade theme. These groups have the option between three different floats: walking units, a single vehicle or towed decorated floats.
On Friday before the parade, judges go around to the participating floats and award prizes for the civic, school, children, and business categories. Two additional awards include the Marshal's Choice and Spirit Award.
The Harvest of Harmony kicks off with the Alumni Band. Jack Moore, who owned a music shop in town, founded the Alumni Band. Judi Nelson now leads the Alumni Band and has done so for the past 26 years. The number of participants varies from 20 to 40 members, and they practice together for three Sunday nights before the parade. As a tradition, the Alumni Band is always the first band to march in the parade.
The other bands are from high schools all across Nebraska that travel to Grand Island to participate. Harvest of Harmony is a Nebraska State Athletic Association sanctioned parade and field competition. Many high school bands view the Harvest of Harmony as a great practice for their state competitions or just a fun experience to perform in front of thousands of cheering spectators. Each year, the Harvest of Harmony committee selects judges for the field and parade competition.
Another important tradition, which takes place the day before the parade, is the Harvest of Harmony Pageant. Each year, contestants represent their schools in the pageant and go through various activities and events. The girls start their morning with a five-minute interview and staging practice. At the end of the pageant, the judges announce the top five contestants, then the Miss Harvest of Harmony. All the pageant candidates ride in the parade, with Miss Harvest of Harmony in a crown, sash and flowers.