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Feature

Gerald McKay

Gerald McKay

A birthday celebration to remember

By Rick Moore

Published on October 20, 2004

There are birthdays that you quietly celebrate with a small group of friends or family. Then there are boisterous birthdays with big crowds and fanfare.

Gerald McKay's 96th birthday promises to be a lot of the latter.

McKay, who will reach the milestone on Saturday, October 23, has a busy day planned. He will start by playing the mellophone--a marching band equivalent to the French horn--as part of the alumni band at the University of Minnesota Alumni Association's homecoming breakfast. Then he's planning on heading outside, hopping on a flatbed truck, and taking in the homecoming parade with some other senior members of the band.

"I dug out my horn about three weeks ago," McKay says, "and I think I can hit most of the notes."

It's a fitting celebration for a man who was instrumental in starting the alumni band. "I was in the band from the beginning when it was organized in 1947, and I played in it for about 50 years, until 1997. And at that point, I had a little difficulty keeping up with the marching," McKay says. "I can't march as fast as they go now; at 96, I have to slow down."

He started his University of Minnesota band career while a student here; McKay graduated from the School of Agriculture in 1931 and received his B.S. in 1939. He served on the College of Agriculture faculty for 30 years, from 1945 to 1975, and has stayed active with the alumni association and with other organizations ever since.

And he figures it shouldn't be too difficult to get back into step with his mellophone, even if it has been a few years since he's marched. "I dug out my horn about three weeks ago," McKay says, "and I think I can hit most of the notes."

He also figures he has history on his side, since "we'll be playing the same tunes we've played for 50 years."

The homecoming breakfast will be held at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the Sports Pavilion (next to Williams Arena). The homecoming parade will begin at 10 a.m. and head down University Avenue. For more information on these and other homecoming activities, see http://www.sao.umn.edu/homecoming/schedule.php .

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