'Hail to the Chief'

Published: Dec. 5, 2018 at 9:45 AM CST
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President George H. Walker Bush made one brief visit to North Dakota in April of 1989.

That one hour appearance endures as a high note for many members of the state's High School Centennial Band.

Two hundred teenage musicians marched together 30-years ago and toured North Dakota as part of the state's Centennial Celebration.

They performed in parades, concerts and special events, and played the signature song of The Commander in Chief.

Centennial Band Director John Warren said: "It was a marvelous time, had a chance to play 'Hail to the Chief' for the President of the United States, had a chance to shake his hand after he gave his comments."

The White House gave The Centennial Celebration Committee only three days notice to prepare for the President's visit.

"It was kind of a whirlwind day, but I still remember it," said Mike Raber.

Getting the band together in 72 hours was very challenging.

Mike Raber, Centennial Band Percussion Section- "We didn't have email and cell phones to get that many kids together that quickly from across the state but we did it and it was an amazing time to play for the president that day."

President Bush spoke from the steps of the North Dakota State Capitol to a crowd of thousands.

President George Bush:

"Happy Birthday North Dakota and God Bless the United States of America."

"What a marvelous moment, I mean it's North Dakota at its finest, here he was, and he was talking about the state of North Dakota, and planted a tree, and people just need to know that that's pretty special in our part of the world out here," said John Warren

The Centennial Band played the official arrangement of "Hail to the Chief" from sheet music provided by the White House the night before the event. Every band member was required to return the score after the performance, but for many the memories of playing for the president have lasted a lifetime.

The two-hundred members of the Centennial Band who performed for the President were hosted by residents of Bismarck/Mandan. They opened up their homes on short notice to house hundreds of high school students and their families.

Video Courtesy: North Dakota State Historical Society