What makes Cleveland, Minn., so different?

Measured by national publicity per capita, Cleveland, Minn., stands alone in America.

Its high school band got plenty of national attention after a Star Tribune story because 90 percent of the students in grades 6 through 12 play in the Cleveland Public Schools band.

There are only about 700 people in Cleveland.

Now, Sports Illustrated has stopped in town to find out what it is about the tiny town that makes the kids in town special.

Sure, it’s a piece about football in Minnesota and the Cleveland stop was only one in the state (the SI staff focused on the Gophers), but it’s the kids and parents in Cleveland who steal the spotlight.

Several band members not only play in the band, they also for the football squad for which the band plays. The quarterback plays trumpet. The band director is also the football coach.

“I always wanted to be a head coach, and I’ve always wanted to be a band director, and there aren’t many schools you can go to where you could do both.”

In a town of 700, about 1,000 people showed up for homecoming, SI says.

In Cleveland, The MMQB staff—on a mission to cover a youth, high school, college and pro football games all in one weekend—is treated to an all-natural setting for the game. There are two small sets of bleachers dotting an expansive hill, forming a bowl as it winds around the end zone, flattens, and melts into the woods. The athletic director long ago tried to talk local pig farmers out of airing out their barns on Friday afternoons, to no avail. The unmistakable smell of slop and pig manure scents the air as the home fans unfurl orange and black blankets.

Cleveland beat Granada-Huntley-EC/Truman Jaguars, 76-0.

Their star player is — was — like a lot of kids in rural Minnesota who just want their chance to leave.

But Cleveland is different.

Kopet once felt stuck in Cleveland and dreamed of escaping someday, but now he’s playing his last season as Clippers quarterback and beginning to appreciate the little things that make his quiet hometown special. “Alls I ever wanted to do was, Oh I want go play at a big school, I want to get out of just this little town,” he says. “But the older you get, the more you appreciate something like this, because there are a lot of kids that don’t get this opportunity, where they almost go under the rug and you’re just a number, rather than a person. I wouldn’t trade this community for the world.”

  • Gary F

    It’s nice that the big time media finds out what its like in a small town in flyover land.

    Its not the only one.

  • Ellen Dickie

    Thank you from Cleveland!

    It is a great place to raise your children, be part of the team, get a great education, and come home to. Why is it so difficult for us to pass a school building referendum that will benefit this generation and generations to come? I know this opens a can of worms, but funding a building project of some kind is necessary. If you lose your school, you’ve lost your community. I am proud of the culture at Cleveland School…their vision statement reflects it.

    Inspire. Learn. Grow. Achieve. a place where students and relationships matter.

    It is not only our small town, like Gary says below.
    There are lots of small towns still fighting to keep their schools.

  • Rob

    Cool to see a guy who can play the trumpet with one hand while throwing a touchdown pass with the other!

    • X.A. Smith

      The starting QB in my graduating class was a trumpet player. I’d love to see a census of HS quarterbacks and what instrument, if any, they play in band. My guess is 70% trumpet.