Guest marching band to perform in Labor Day parade

The Onalaska High School Marching Hilltoppers, under the direction of McGregor native Dawson Strutt, will march in Saturday’s Labor Day parade. (Submitted photo)


Forty years ago you could find McGregor native Dawson Strutt marching down Main Street as part of the Mar-Mac High School band.  This holiday weekend, he will be walking the same path, but this time with a high school marching band of his own. The Onalaska High School Marching Hilltoppers, under the direction of Strutt, will be making a guest appearance in the 2013 McGregor Labor Day parade on Saturday, Aug. 31.


“We were invited by the McGregor Lions Club to take part in the parade,” said Strutt.  “I saw it as the perfect opportunity for a fun trip for the students and a chance to show them the place where I began my career in music.”


Strutt played trumpet in the Mar-Mac band for eight years.  After graduating in 1972, he attended Drake University, majoring in music education, earning both a bachelor of music education and a master of music education degree.  He began his teaching career in Dyersville, before accepting a band position in West Des Moines. Strutt moved to West Salem, Wis., in 1982, before finally accepting a teaching position at Onalaska High School in Onalaska, Wis., a position he has held for the past 15 years. 


“It is sometimes unbelievable for me to realize that I am beginning my 38th year as a music educator,” Strutt said. “It will be nice to be able to come back to McGregor, where my love and passion for music began.”


The OHS Marching Hilltoppers have had many successes while under the direction of Strutt. In 2006, the band was chosen to represent the state of Wisconsin at the July 4th National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C.  


While on a national tour to New York City in 2008, director Strutt’s concert band won a National Grand Champion Award at the Heritage Music Festival. 


Just this past year, the Onalaska HS Marching Hilltoppers were selected as the National Grand Champion Parade Band of the New Year’s parade at the 2013 Outback Bowl, held in Tampa, Fla. They competed against 18 other bands from across the nation for that honor.  The color guard, dance team and baton squad all earned best band front in that parade. 


At this same festival, the OHS Concert Band also won top honors, receiving the coveted National Grand Champion Award, topping all other concert ensembles in the prestigious 2013 Outback Bowl Concert Competition.


“We end up marching in about 10 parades each year.  “ Strutt explained. “They average anywhere from two to five miles long, so this will be a little different for us, but we’re very excited. We are looking forward to the beautiful drive along the river, and I know the students are going to enjoy the beauty and serenity of this wonderful community.”


In addition to local parades, such as the LaCrescent, Minn., Applefest and the LaCrosse Oktoberfest, Maple Leaf and Torchlight parades, this year the band also traveled to Pulaski, Wis., and the Minnesota State Fair.  They also performed at multiple events, including the welcome home for veterans at the Freedom Honor Flight, a LaCrosse Loggers baseball game and the annual summer picnic for LaCrosse Riverfront, a LaCrosse facility for individuals with disabilities.


You can see the Onalaska Hilltopper Marching Band performing “Theme from Spiderman” and marching down McGregor’s Main Street in the parade this Saturday, at 11 a.m.  They will also perform a brief superhero-themed concert in Triangle Park following the parade.

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