La Crosse & District Pipes & Drums will kick off this year’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities by playing traditional Scottish tunes during its second annual bus tour.
The event, which is also a fundraising opportunity for the La Crosse Highlanders, the support organization for the pipe band, will feature live music by the La Crosse & District Pipes & Drums at various locations throughout the area.
Instead of playing downtown on St. Patrick’s Day, the pipe band will perform from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The unpredictability of the March weather season prevents them from playing outside on the actual holiday.
“We never know about the weather,” said pipe major Doug Weidenbach. “(Cold weather) affects the tuning (of the bagpipes) and everything else.”
The La Crosse & District Pipes & Drums will play for the public for about 20 minutes at each stop. They are scheduled to appear at the following 11 places: Nutbush City Limits, Boot Hill Pub, Alpine Inn, Kramer’s Bar & Grill, Moose Lodge 1920, Bodega Brew Pub, Fish's Bar & Grill and Festival Foods in Holmen, Onalaska and La Crosse.
“Bring your earplugs and go to the grocery store,” said Sue Brendle, event coordinator and piper. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The La Crosse Highlanders and the La Crosse & District Pipes & Drums were founded in La Crosse in the late 1970s. The pipe band was first known as The VIIth Bn. West Mosby Volunteers and later as The Floodplain Fencibles.
The pipe band is active in the La Crosse community and participates in a variety of local events, including Irishfest La Crosse and the annual Robert Burns Supper. La Crosse & District Pipes & Drums also performs at funerals, weddings and other special gatherings, and hosts beginner bagpipe classes.
The pipers and drummers practice from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at Boot Hill Pub in La Crosse. Last week, 11 of the band’s 20 to 30 members gathered in a circle to play.
With less than two weeks to practice for this year’s bus tour, the La Crosse & District Pipes & Drums focused their practice on preparing for the St. Patrick’s event. Weidenbach directed the pipe band through dozens of tunes.
“It’s easy to learn how to play a bagpipe,” Weidenbach said. “It’s hard to learn how to play it well. It’s a constant challenge to get people to keep playing.”
But for longtime members of the La Crosse & District Pipes & Drums, the commitment isn’t hard.
“Times flies when you’re having fun,” Weidenbach said.