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Strike up the Band

Tom Jackson • Oct 7, 2013 at 8:05 PM

Dorene Paul was just poking around in a box of old documents, trying to find something to blog about.

Her curiosity led to a new 30-minute documentary, “Under the Baton: Music at Old Cedar Point,” and a series of Sandusky Library programs on the early days of Cedar Point.

Paul, who writes most of the entries for the library’s Sandusky History group blog, explained that when she needs inspiration, she likes to go through the library’s archives.

She found a box of documents that included the “G.A. Boeckling March.” Boeckling, the Matt Ouimet of his day, helped turn Cedar Point into a national attraction. “I told Dennis it would be great to hear it played on the piano,” Paul said.

Dennis McMullen, director of reference and reader’s advisory for the library, did better than that. He wrote a grant that obtained about $10,000 from the Ohio Humanities Council to cover the cost of the new documentary.   It’s still being edited, but will premiere Nov. 1 at the library.

The film includes conductor Carl Topilow and 15 members of the Firelands Symphony Orchestra performing the “Boeckling March” and the “Cedar Point March” at the Cedar Point Ballroom.

The documentary covers the period from 1877 to 1922, before jazz and the big band era, when the marches of John Phillips Sousa were popular, said Maggie Marconi, administrator of the Follett House museum and the assistant producer for the movie.

McMullen, the movie’s producer and scriptwriter, said the “Cedar Point March” dates to 1902 and the “Boeckling March” came out in 1915.

Cedar Point has had roller coasters since the first one, Switchback Railway, opened in 1892, but you wouldn’t mistake those early coasters for Millennium Force, said John Hildebrandt, the park’s general manager. Switchback was 25 feet tall and had a top speed of 10 mph, he said.

Rides were a secondary attraction from 1870 through the first decade of the 20th century, Hildebrandt said.

“The main entertainment driver was music. Vaudeville acts, community and school bands, opera singers, concert bands like John Phillip Sousa’s, orchestras, all played Cedar Point with great success,” he said.

Besides screening the movie, the library has scheduled a series of programs on Cedar Point music and related topics.

For example, when the library premieres the new documentary, Steven Plank, a professor of musicology at Oberlin College and an expert on the history of music performance, will give a talk on “Desperately Seeking Sousa.”

Early-day Cedar Point concert band music predates jazz, blues and rock, but it survives in the many similar bands that still exist today, said McMullen, citing two local bands, the North Coast Concert Band and the Vacationland Band.

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