Coming back home: Gear Daddies, Six Mile Grove playing grandstands Friday

Published 12:01 pm Sunday, August 7, 2016

By Sarah Lynse

The Mower County Fair Board is bringing in Austin’s hometown band, the Gear Daddies, to perform at the Mower County Fair on Friday.

The show billed as Mower County Home Grown, will open with another local band, Six Mile Grove.

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The Gear Daddies, who have been together for almost 30 years include, Martin Zellar (vocals and guitar), Nick Ciola (bass), Randy Broughten (electric and steel guitar) and James “Billy” Dankert  (drums and vocals.)

According to the Geardaddies website the group, an Americana/rock band, started  as a local Austin band, but soon became popular in the Twin Cities area.

They have also performed in cities on the east and west coast and across the Midwest, building a following of fans that still keeps up with them today. A highlight for the band was the opportunity to perform “Stupid Boy,”  on the David Letterman show in 1991.

The band members went on to perform with other groups or start solo careers. Zellar and Ciola started a new group, “Martin Zellar and the Hardways.”  Zellar has also recorded as a solo artist. The four members of the original Gear Daddies group come together a few times a year for some special concerts.

“We expect a large attendance, as fans from Kansas, Wisconsin and other nearby states are already purchasing tickets for the show online,” said John Mueller, fair board president.  “We also expect many fans from the Rochester and Twin Cities area.”

“It has been a goal to have the Gear Daddies play at the Mower County Fair for many years,” Mueller added. “We are pleased that schedules allowed it to work out this year.”

Nick Ciola recounted the history of the bands beginning days.

“Martin and I had a band in High School, called “Fallout,” he said. “After we graduated, we were asked to play at an Austin High School event. We threw a band together with some of the members from “Fallout,” and the future Gear Daddies drummer, Jim “Billy” Dankert.”

“Playing at the Colonial bar in 1985-1986,” When Dankert was asked about some of their fondest memories of the band’s early years. “We had great fans turn out for those shows, and I was underage and playing in a bar, so it was exciting.”

Dankert add, “Playing Spam Jam in the early 1990s was also a blast.”

Dankert reflected on what it was like to have the band reunite for Friday’s show.

“I’m happy that my mom will get to see me play again,” Dankert said. “I feel incredibly fortunate to still be playing at all, period.  I love the Mower County Fair, so I’m glad we get to be a part of it.”

Both Ciola and Dankert said the things they look forward to the most when returning to Austin include time spent with family and friends and a visit to Steve’s Pizza.

When asked about any specific highlights for this show Ciola said, “Impossible to say, we never have a set list or a plan, we just play.”

Dankert added that the group is scheduled to play several more shows around Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota later in the year.

Mower County Homegrown

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, Mower County Fairgrounds

Who: The popular local band Six Mile Grove will open for the Gear Daddies

Tickets: General admission and VIP tickets now available. For tickets and more information: