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First concert for Wadena Concert Association held in 1955

Lina Belar, Interim Exexcutive Director, Wadena County Historical Society

Sunday night’s incredible performance of “Les Trompettes” at the Memorial Auditorium inspired me to research the beginnings of the Wadena Area Concert Association.   As usual, I turned to the archives of the Wadena County Historical Society and the material compiled years ago by Robert C. Zosel from articles that had appeared in the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and this is what I learned.

“In a February 26, 1948 issue of the Pioneer Journal, it was announced that the first step in a plan to bring nationally-known concert artists to Wadena had been taken with the organization of a Wadena Concert association which was to function in conjunction with the University of Minnesota’s Concert and Lecture service.  

C.I. Folkestad was elected president of the new group, Mrs. George Holmberg was named secretary, and Ray Tibbetts was treasurer.  The group met with concert advisors from the University to learn about the membership plan under which about 30 concert associations throughout Minnesota operated at that time.

Membership dues were established at $3.60 for adults and $1.80 for students.  Payment of dues entitled each member to admission to all the concerts in the series without further charge.  A series of concerts was then selected by the local committee at the close of the membership campaign after funds were known.  

At that time memberships were available only during the campaign week and were solicited by a large campaign force.  Artists and concert groups available to the Wadena association were discussed and David Simonds of the University presented a list to demonstrate that each of the associations served by the University had a large variety of attractions to choose from.

However, it wasn’t until October 30, 1955 that the first Wadena Concert Association program was given.  It featured the Robert Anderson Ensemble, a group of musicians from the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra.  It was held at the Memorial Auditorium where the ensemble received a “storm of approval” from the Wadena audience.  

Since that first opening program, the Wadena Concert Association has been responsible for procuring entertainment for the ears of its Wadena membership, bringing culture and musical enlightenment to the entire community.”

Today, Wadena’s Concert Association is as active as ever and still follows the same principles established in 1948.  A membership drive is held each year, usually culminating in August, but new members are welcome all year long.  In addition to the five concerts scheduled in Wadena, there is a reciprocity program with concert associations in several other communities as well such as Alexandria, Fergus Falls and Park Rapids.  That way, members can attend a number of concerts, all for the cost of one membership which is now $40 for adults, $15 for students and $85 for families.   For more information, contact Bonnie Kingsley at (218) 371- 9487.  

Excerpts  from the Centennial Edition of the Wadena Pioneer Journal, July 1, 1981 as compiled by Robert C. Zosel.  Lina Belar is the interim executive director of the Wadena County Historical Society.