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For the second year, Bandmates, Brothers and Friends (BBF) will reunite in Waukon for another night of musical entertainment to benefit the Veterans Memorial Health Care Foundation. This event will be held Friday, May 10th, at the Allamakee Fairgrounds Pavilion. Pictured are some members of both bands, including, from left to right, Bill Withers Jr., Event Coordinator, with Bob Bechtel and Joel Anderson, of BBF; Kevin Hanson and Craig Lensing of the Veterans Memorial Health Care Foundation; and Lyle Hanson and Joe Sweeney of The Toe Tappers.

Bandmates, Brothers and Friends Return for Second Annual Event May 10: The Toe Tappers Celebrate 50th Anniversary

For the second year, Bandmates, Brothers and Friends (BBF) will reunite in Waukon for another night of musical entertainment to benefit the Veterans Memorial Health Care Foundation.  This year will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Toe Tappers as part of the night’s musical line-up.   The event will again be held on Friday evening of Mother’s Day Weekend, May 10, from 6-11 pm.  This year the event will be held at the Allamakee Fairgrounds Pavilion to allow for more room to enjoy the show, dancing, expanded seating and additional food options to be available this year.

“Over 50 years for The Toe Tappers, and over 45 for a number of our BBF guys.  What an honor to share the night with them,” states Bill Withers Jr., event coordinator.  “I hope everyone comes out to celebrate around a great cause!”

The Toe Tappers will take the stage first, at 6 pm, followed by two different sets of the 11 musicians who are once again reuniting for the night, forming Bandmates, Brothers and Friends (BBF).  These musicians come from four past local bands including Rising Sun, Horizon, Jackson Junction and Deep River.  Many of the returning musicians are from Waukon including brothers Bill Withers, Jim Withers, John Withers, along with Gary Hesla, Bob Bechtel, Dave Dougherty, Brad Prestemon, Todd Pickett and Joel Anderson.  They will be joined by Keel Clemmens and Jamey Lideen, longtime band members over the years.

The Toe Tappers will consist of Joe Sweeney, who has been the one constant band member all 50 years, in addition to Lyle Hanson, Dean Mielke and Sis Stemper.

“I can remember when Bill and I started playing in high school…we were as different as night and day, but that friendship just clicked,” describes BBF member Joel Anderson.   “Then Bob Bechtel called when they were starting up a new group, Rising Sun, and they needed a drummer.  That’s when I got my first drum set. Bill and I had so much fun sitting side-by-side, playing the drums…we were both still babies!  Then we needed wanted to add a horn section and that’s when Gary Hesla and Todd Pickett joined.”

Joel adds, “I am really looking forward to adding The Toe Tappers this year.  Joe Sweeney and I are cousins and I remember him letting me sit in when we were at family get togethers.  Rising Sun and The Toe Tappers even played at my parents (Gladwin and Darlene’s) 40th wedding anniversary at the Opera House. There is so much talent coming together and for a great cause!”

Last year, over $8000 was raised thanks to free-will donations at the door and on-line.  This year, the funds raised at this event will be utilized to purchase a Pyxis Medication Dispensing System for the ER at Veterans Memorial Hospital, which makes medication delivery much more efficient for the nurse and safer for the patient.

“Last year’s benefit for Veterans Memorial Hospital was truly something special.  The turnout, support, and generosity from the public was wonderfully unexpected. This year’s event will be great fun and we’re hoping that even more people turn out in the larger venue,” said  bandmember, Todd Picket.  “Rural hospitals and clinics like Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon are facing significant challenges.  I live in Northwest Wisconsin in a metro area of around 100,000 people which is considered ‘rural’ in health care circles. Recently, two out of our five area hospitals and several satellite clinics announced they will be closing in April.  It is more important than ever to support your local hospital.   The drive to Decorah or La Crosse can be very long when you are seeking emergency care for a loved one.  Come out, enjoy some music, have fun, and donate to a great cause.  If you can’t join us for the event, donate anyway!”

The Toe Tappers have been together for over 50 years, but due to COVID, never had the opportunity to celebrate that milestone until this one special evening. Both bands played throughout the tri-state area over the decades, often playing numerous times per week. It was not uncommon that Waukon alone would have multiple dances in town on weekend nights.

“It was great to see the crowd having fun and not wanting to stop for the evening, keeping the party going! That was the first time the 11 of us had been back together for quite some time…..surprisingly, we really didn’t need to shake off too much rust,” adds Gary Hesla.  “I’m looking forward to playing this year’s benefit event alongside The Toe Tappers at the Fairgrounds Pavilion. I always remembered them playing around the area and having a great following! I’d encourage everyone to come and plan on a great evening supporting the Veterans Memorial Healthcare Foundation…..it’s a great time for a great cause!”

Attendees will enjoy waltz’s, polkas, Scottish’s, 40’s music, as well as old and new country songs thanks to the Toe Tappers, and songs from the 50’s through the 90’s, both country and rock, thanks to Bandmates, Brothers and Friends, as they reunite for this second year in a row.

Free-will donations will be accepted at the door that night as well as on-line, to benefit the Veterans Memorial Hospital Health Care Foundation.