The History of Harvest of Harmony
The parade's roots start back in 1938 when Chamber members decided to organize an event to promote goodwill among the area small towns. That first parade, 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, 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. 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...
The Harvest of Harmony is coordinated by the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce with the help of the Harvest of Harmony committee. Each year, the committee meets monthly starting in March to begin planning for the parade.
The Harvest of Harmony committee selects a theme meant to represent Grand Island and the current development taking place in the community.
A grand marshal (or more than one) is also selected by the committee, sometimes in relation to the selected theme.
1963 — When You Wish Upon a Star 2002 — Honoring Everyday Heroes 1974 — Nebraskaland...Visions of Tomorrow 2003 — Thanks for the Memories, 10/11 1975 — Say It With Music 2004 — ACTS OF KINDNESS---“Serving Others in the Heartland” 1978 — A Tribute to Big Brass Bands and Barnam & Bailey 2005 — Uniquely Nebraskan – Celebrating People, Places & Events 1979 — It’s a Small, Small World 2006 — Mardi Gras – “Isle de Grande” -65th year 1980 — United We Can, Together We Stand 2007 — Celebration of 150 years of Hall County Settlement “Reflecting Back... Looking Forward” 1981 — Reflection of the Golden Years 2008 — Festivals, Family and Fun! 1982 — The All AmericaCity 2009 — A World of Harmony and Happiness 1983 — Shine on Harvest Moon-Salute to Ag 2010 — Harvest of Pride- Saluting Nebraska’s Men, Women, and Families of the Armed Services 1984 — Music-The International Voice 2011 — Celebrating Agriculture in the Heartland 1985 — Merry Go Rounds and Clowns 2012 — Soaring through the Heartland –Choppers, Planes and Cranes 1986 — Nebraska, We’ve Got the Spirit 2013 — Nebraska’s Youth – Our Shining Stars 1987 — Our Friends, the Animals 2014 — From Pages to Parade… Making Characters Come Alive 1988 — Looking Up, Feeling Great, Celebrate ‘88 2015 — Superhero Adventures…What’s Your Superpower? 1989 — We the People 2016 — Our Diamond Jubilee – An Illustrious Past and A Bright Future 1990 — A Melody to Remember 2017 — Nebraska! Let’s Celebrate 150 Years! 1991 — 50 Years of Harmony 2018 — There’s No Place Like Space 1992 — 125 Ways to Love Nebraska 2019 — Building Dreams, Friendships and Memories! 1993 — Ethnic Cultures on Parade 2020 — **No parade held due to the COVID-19 Pandemic 1994 — Nebraska’s Youth, the Future 2021 — We Are All Superheroes 1995 — Freedom on Parade 2022 — Marching through the Decades 1996 — The Spirit of Grand IslanD 1997 — Masquerade on Parade 1998 — Big Red Marches On 1999 — A Parade of Years Past 2000 — A Tour of the Heartland 2001 — Hobbies...the Spice of Life
THE ALUMNI BAND
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 HIGH SCHOOL BANDS
The stars of the Harvest of Harmony parade are other bands from high schools all across Nebraska that travel to Grand Island to participate on the first Saturday in October.
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.
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 view the participating floats and award prizes in the civic, school, children, and business categories. An additional award includes the Marshal's Choice.
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 day-long event, 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 with a crown, sash, and flowers.
For many years, the Harvest of Harmony Parade has been broadcast live by local television
stations. This has been a unique and added bonus for participating bands, floats, and dignitaries.
Unfortunately, we were advised in 2021 by NTV that they are not able to broadcast the
Parade due to copyright and synchronization laws that have been brought to the forefront.
The Harvest of Harmony committee will continue to explore other options that allow
individuals from across the state, country, and world to view the parade 'live.'