History extra: Ludington’s Fourth of July and the Scottville Clown Band
MC History Spotlight is a weekly history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Living and Memory Care. Each week this column features a story from our county’s past.
By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.
The Scottville Clown Band has been part of Ludington’s Independence Day celebration for well over 80 years. Articles in the band’s archives trace the appearance of the clown band from Scottville back in the 1930s. At that time, the parade started on the west end of Ludington Avenue and traveled east.
Through the years the band and the celebration have evolved.
The band’s roots go back to 1903 when a group of Scottville merchants decided to dress up in costumes and play for local events, calling themselves the Scottville Merchants Band. In the 1930s, the band was unofficially known as a clown band (which was actually a common type of band back then). World War II meant the end of the band until it was re-organized in 1947 by Scottville merchant Ray Schulte, son of one of the band’s founding members, Bert A. Schulte. Ray called formally called the band the Scottville Clown Band. The band’s first performance that year was the Scottville Harvest Festival, which took place in October. The following year, it came to Ludington for Fourth of July parade, which it has ended consecutively ever since (that’s 71 years).
In the 1960s, the Ludington Area Jaycees (junior chamber of commerce) took over the Independence Day celebration and called it the Ludington Area Jaycees Freedom Festival.
The Scottville Clown Band now performs all over Michigan. The band is an all-volunteer organization and attendance is basically based on the availability of the members. But, the Ludington parade always sees the largest band, typically about 100.
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