Alumnus proud of role at U, Aquatennial

by Douglas Rojas

The end of the Aquatennial Grande Day Parade on Saturday marked the end of a busy time for University employee John Brant.
An hour before the Torchlight Parade began Wednesday night, Brant was giving last-minute instructions and making sure every detail was in place. The floats were ready, the bands were doing their final rehearsals and the royalty representatives from out of state had arrived.
“The Torchlight parade is one of the crowned jewels of the Minneapolis Aquatennial,” Brant said. “Usually we have an attendance of over 200,000 people.”
As a vice commodore for this year’s Minneapolis Aquatennial, Brant was in charge of organizing parades. Other vice commodores coordinated various divisions of the Aquatennial, such as entertainment and sports.
This is Brant’s 25th year marching in the Aquatennial parades, his eighth year as a direct volunteer and his third year as vice commodore.
“In some small way with my volunteering for the Aquatennial, I can actually pay back what the state and the community have given me throughout the years,” he said.
Brant, 44, coordinates events for the men’s athletics department at the University, including tournaments for the NCAA, Big Ten and WCHA.
“I’m very much tied to the University of Minnesota,” he said. “I graduated from the University, I play for the alumni band, I’ve lived in the state of Minnesota my entire life. My blood runs maroon and gold.”
After 25 years of participating in the parades, Brant has plenty of memories — especially of weather threatening the celebration.
Several years ago, Brant was marching and playing the trombone with the University’s alumni band in an Aquatennial parade. Because the temperature was in the 90s and the humidity was high, Brant said he felt like he couldn’t make it through the parade. As he began to play the “University of Minnesota Rouser,” he saw a man struggling to stand up from his wheelchair.
“I suddenly realized what the power of music is,” he said, “and what the University rouser means to this person. I thought if he can get up out of his wheelchair, I can continue this parade.
“I’ll carry that for the rest of my life.”
Minneapolis has held an Aquatennial for each of the last 56 years. In 1939 a group of business men from Minnesota witnessed a big welcome celebration for British royalty in Winnipeg, Canada. They borrowed this idea and decided to have a celebration that would include a parade with elected royalty. And in 1940, the first Aquatennial took place.