As the Kenosha Pops Concert Band gets ready to open its 97th season, the biggest change happens on July 4 when the band performs its annual patriotic-themed concert on the band shell.

The Pops had been playing in Wolfenbuttel Park before the city of Kenosha’s fireworks show for the past two-plus decades.

But this summer, the band’s fans will find the Pops in the familiar setting of Pennoyer Park, playing at 4 p.m.

“We are happy with the move,” said Craig Gall, the band’s musical director. “It should have easier parking and seating for our audience, and it’s always nice to play at our home venue.

“People can enjoy the concert and get out of the park before dark if they want to, or they can stay for the fireworks.”

The band’s free concerts have a different theme each week.

Gall must be feeling brave, seeing as he scheduled two June programs that could tempt the rain gods.

Up first, on June 12, is “Nautical Night,” an outdoor concert with songs about water. To make it even more dangerous, this program is a do-over of a program that was rained out in 2018.

“Let’s hope for no rainfall that night — or any of our concert nights,” Gall said. “Rain should only start after 9 p.m.”

The 2018 nautical-themed concert, he added, “was rained out completely. We’ll try to get it in this season.”

Weather concerns aside, Gall said the nautical theme “is a very entertaining concert, with pieces including highlights from ‘The Pirates of Penzance,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and Leroy Anderson’s ‘Pirates Dance.’ ”

The June 26 theme could also court rain. “Weather or Not” contains pieces “we discovered looking through our extensive music library,” Gall said.

“We found many, many tunes related to different meteorological wonders, with pieces like ‘Blue Skies’ by Irving Berlin, ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ by The Carpenters and even ‘Let It Snow.’ ”

“There are several rain tunes on that concert ,” Gall added. “I hope it’s not a bad omen.”

Summer highlights

Other themes this summer include:

“America the Melting Pot” on June 19, featuring “music from around the world to celebrate America’s immigrants.” The program will also celebrate Juneteenth Day. Selections will include music from the TV miniseries “Roots,” highlights from “West Side Story,” a Bohemian polka and “Yagi-Bushi,” which Gall calls “a really cool Japanese march.” The band “won’t cover every country, but we will hit a lot of them,” he added.

“Halloween in July” on July 10. “That’s always a fun concert,” Gall said, “and will include a children’s costume parade.” The program will feature spooky tunes, like “The Phantom of the Opera” and Chopin’s “Funeral March.”

An indoor concert on July 17 in Carthage College’s Siebert Chapel. For that program, Garrett Kornman will be back with the Pops.

Kornman had been the group’s assistant conductor and an alto saxophone player with the group, who was often featured on solo parts.

In 2018, he moved to the Wausau area for a new job, returning to the band shell for a farewell concert last summer.

On July 17, Kornman will conduct a few numbers, Gall said, and also be the soloist on the theme from the 1989 film “Cinema Paradiso.”

“It will be great to have him back again this summer,” Gall said. “I’m happy this worked out for his schedule.”

“The Sound and Joy of Music” on July 24 is what Gall calls “a concert of humorous novelty songs and comic pieces,” including “The Roosters Lay Eggs in Kansas,” a tune unofficially known as John Philip Sousa’s favorite encore. Audience members will be asked to participate during sing-alongs and on the dance favorite “YMCA.” Also on that program is highlights from “The Sound of Music” to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the musical’s Broadway debut.

Back on the podium

Fifteen years after retiring as conductor, Frank Germinaro returned to the band in 2018 as the assistant conductor.

He’s back for another season this summer.

Gall is starting his 17th season as the band’s conductor “and before that, I served as Frank’s assistant for seven years,” he said. “Now our roles are reversed.”

For Gall and Germinaro, working together again “is just like it always was,” Gall said, “with lots of laughs.”

Guest performers

Guest vocalists performing with the Pops this summer include the Dave Braun Trio, returning to the band shell on June 26.

Also returning are the Kenosha Unified School District’s Continental Band, K-L Band and Summer Strings “and we may have additional special features, too, as the summer goes on,” Gall said.

As time goes by

As he gets ready to start his 26th season with the Pops, Gall still sounds surprised he’s been with the group that long — and how fast that time has gone.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the band so far,” he said. “It’s a great bunch of people and a very good band. That’s what keeps the audiences coming back.”

Supported by the city

Both conductors are quick to thank the city of Kenosha for its support.

“It says a lot for the city of Kenosha that they’ve supported this wonderful band for more than 90 years. I’m happy to be carrying on that tradition,” said Gall, who has been a school band director for 27 years, first in Kenosha and now in Kimberly, near Appleton.

Concession stand

Sandy’s Popper — which has been selling gourmet popcorn, ice cream and other treats in downtown Kenosha for more than a decade — is returning for a third year, operating the concession stand at the Pops Band concerts.

“We’re really excited to be with the Pops Band,” said Sandy Hawes, who owns the business with her husband, Dave.

“We get to listen to the music and be around the band and the people,” Hawes said, adding, “This is another opportunity to get our popcorn out into the community.” The concession stand sells popcorn (including regular and special flavors), candy bars, soda and water.

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