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Mason City Celebration!
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bridge.jpg (8123 bytes)signfb.jpg (7941 bytes) This sensational footbridge in
Mason City was the inspiration for Meredith Willson's River City footbridge in "The Music Man"

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What you see in this photo is a sketch of some of the plans for Mason City's
"Music Man Square". They hope to have it completed by the year 2002,
the year that Meredith Willson would celebrate his 100th birthday.
He was born on May 18th, 1902.
I will be presenting much more information on the entire project in a section exclusively for
The Mason City Foundation.
The site plan above, will be like a dream world for all of us who love "The Music Man"
and that's just about everyone! This portion of the square will have a complete recreation of River City.
It will include the Candy Kitchen, The Library, Gymnasium, Jacey Squires' Livery Stable and of course
the Billiard Parlor complete with a billiard table and that
troublesome POOL Table!
The ground breaking was a fabulous celebration and the construction is underway.
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Shirley  had a very nice time answering questions after her Surf Ballroom rehearsal on May 21st.
She was interviewed by Station KLSS, Radio station KGLO and several newspapers.

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From the May 21st rehearsal at The Famous Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
That's Shirley and her magnificent musical director and friend, Ron Abel.
I call this one "They Went That-a-way!".
I believe they were looking out at Trish Mahoney who is also a good friend of Shirley's,
and she does all of the lighting and sound at her concerts all over the country, and the world.

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At the boyhood home of Meredith Willson.
One of the final stops
on Shirley's busiest day in Mason City (Saturday, May 22nd)
Here she has a few moments to view some Willson family photos.
Shirley is looking at a baby picture of Meredith and she is seated at a piano
in their front parlor where Meredith's mother taught her two boys about music!

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This is the house where he grew up with his brother, and mother and father.
That's Shirley coming down the front porch stairs after a wonderful tour of this
beautifully restored home. When the house was purchased,
it was in pretty sad shape, but with a lot of love and hard work ,
it now looks exactly as it did when Meredith Willson lived there.

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The parade on the 22nd was spectacular!
When we all drove to town on Thursday evening, it was pouring rain like I've never seen before.
The next day was very pleasant for Shirley's concert performance at The Surf Ballroom.
But then on Saturday, the sun came out for the parade and I even got a sunburn.
Shirley was smart, she brought along her visor and sunglasses.
Sharon Benesta, who runs Shirley's International Fan Club and I were honored to ride
along with Shirley in The Mason City Band Festival Parade.
We snapped some photos of Shirley sitting high up on the back of a beautiful
Cadillac convertible. I will have photos and information about our driver and the
man who drove Shirley in the parade 37 years ago when "The Music Man" first premiered.

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That's Chris Frenz of KGLO interviewing Shirley. The other photo is an interview
for TV station KIMT channel 3.

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Shirley was interviewed all over town. Even while watching the parade with
Meredith's widow, Rosemary Willson. After we drove along the parade route,
we were taken to some special seats to watch the rest of the festivities.

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I'm sure everyone will recognize that bus! It was US Cellular's entry in the parade.
Those two silly people waving from the crowd are none other than Trish and Ron, from Shirley's entourage.
Ron is her Musical Director. Trish does the lights and sound for each show.
That final shot, is of Shirley standing next to the bronze sign announcing the start of the
Music Man Footbridge. This was one of the few relaxing moments for Shirley.

Extra Special Thanks.jpg (6285 bytes) for all your help.
Dr. Carl Miller, the Executive Director 
of The Mason City Foundation.
Mr. Vance Baird from the Chamber of Commerce
who coordinated this year's Northern Iowa Band Festival.

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Here are a few old black and white photos from the first
Mason City Parade that Shirley participated in to celebrated the original
premiere of Meredith Willson's Warner Bros. production in 1962

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Meredith Willson beats the big bass drum at the opening of the ceremony.
Shirley rode in the parade along with Ronny Howard and Robert Preston

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The event was covered by Iowa Television Station KGLO, Channel 2.
In the center photo, Shirley speaks with Meredith Willson and in the photo above,
Shirley and Robert Preston watch the festivities.

Take this LINK to a page about
some of the great people that we met in Mason City in '99

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