September 13th, 2019
Imagine going back in time to Mankato, Minnesota in the 1980s.
You’re sitting on a blanket spread out on a steep hill used for sledding in the winter, but it’s May, months away from snowfall, cold temps, and sliding. The sun is hot. A band plays from the city’s mobile stage. Vendors hawk their wares from booths around the hill. You see old friends and make new ones.
It’s a party, social event, and concert rolled into one! You’ve been looking forward to it since January. It’s People’s Fair and it’s finally here!
In 2019 we have the chance to relive those days of well-remembered and well-loved musicians and bands (even though a few of them are still playing!) while sitting on that grassy hill. Hours of nearly forgotten video footage have come to the light, been edited and formatted into single song videos!
In the early 1980s, as the home video recorder market started to blossom, Cable-vision, once known in Mankato as TV Signal, Inc., offered the opportunity for the general public to submit video productions for potential airing on the company’s public access channel.
In Mankato, and many other communities, studios were established to provide the tools for people to produce and hopefully share their video projects.
Thirty-something Tom Deike, accepted the invitation to local public access television. Deike was a practicing musician, a saxophonist, and enjoyed many connections with the musicians seeking a living in the Mankato music scene. By 1984, he started his own video production company that included a videotape editing system. Though primitive by today’s standards, over the rest of the decade, Deike bought new cameras and systems as they became available in search of that perfect shot or ideal moment to capture on tape. And then, he began to share that tape with the world.
Even today, People’s Fair conjures up memories of sunny May days and well-known faces on the Mankato stage. It continues to be a popular topic of discussion on Facebook. Most long-time residents from 40 to 70 likely recall attending at least one People’s Fair.
And Deike taped it all for most of the 1980s! He captured complete performance sets; stage introductions; people just sitting on blankets on the sliding hill; folks mingling through the crowd; and people moving to the “beer-dancing music,” as he referred to it.
But mostly there were the bands!
It’s no surprise that performances by City Mouse and the Gestures are standouts in Deike’s videos. But there are sleeper performances from other bands and musicians, too, like The Hand Picked Band and Two for the Show.
Deike got the opportunity to connect his video camera with the festival’s studio-quality sound system manned by Roy Walters of Thunder Sound for many of the fairs. More than 30 years old, the recordings are of remarkably high quality.
The video clips will be released exclusively on the Mankato Music History Facebook page.
The sound quality alone makes the videos worth a watch and a listen. Seeing the Mankato of our past and all the familiar faces is just a big bonus!