During the next few weeks, thousands of students and their families from across the state will pour into Johnson County.

At four local high school stadiums, they will perform marching band shows as part of a local invitational or as a step to try and get further in Indiana State School Music Association contests.

Band departments and booster parents from Greenwood, Center Grove, Franklin and Whiteland have prepared for the events for months. At Center Grove and Whiteland high schools, the final preparation work begins now for events this weekend.

Most of the marching band events are centered around competition for the Indiana State School Music Association. Part of the what makes schools in Johnson County attractive to host ISSMA events is their central Indiana location and the strong parent booster programs that guarantee that 12- and 13-hour events will be staffed by volunteers, said Mick Bridgewater, executive director of the Indiana State School Music Association.

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ISSMA officials tour schools with marching band directors when choosing sites for their events. Directors are asked about their booster program and whether they can get the hundreds of parent volunteers it takes to pull off an invitational, Bridgewater said.

“They have to provide support for parking, and either the parents or students help with guiding the band, admissions, concessions, hospitality and food for judges and bands,” he said.

The ISSMA also prefers turf football fields, which makes for an easier march for participating bands and makes a muddy field less of a factor.

Schools must also have stadiums that can fit thousands of spectators and the condition of press boxes are taken into account too, he said.

Local Johnson County schools met that criteria, with all the host schools boasting turf fields. Whiteland and Center Grove have recently expanded or added new bleacher seating.

Greenwood hosted their invitational in September, and Center Grove and Whiteland both have events this weekend, where dozens of bands with their families in tow will come to the county for the one-day events.

Local band directors readily agree to host as a way to give back to music education and as a fundraiser for their band, directors said.

The schools who host get part of the admission price and make money from selling concessions to students and parents. Private invitationals have been touted as the biggest fundraisers for local band programs, with some schools bringing in as much as $12,000 for their band programs if the weather for the invitational is good.

“We do that as a support to ISSMA and it does bring us in some revenue for the booster organization,” said Kevin Schuessler, band director at Center Grove High School.

Hosting an invitational takes the involvement of hundreds of parents, director said.

Band parents direct spectators to their parking spaces, act as liaisons for each band that is performing, sell tickets and concessions and set up and clean up after each event.

“It is amazing how many parents it takes to do something like this,” said Pete Sampson, band director at Whiteland Community High School.

While sometimes dozens of bands filter in and out of each stadium over a time period as long as 12 hours, planning the invitational is simply building off of years and years of experience, band directors said.

Center Grove and Greenwood have hosted their private invitationals for decades. Franklin has had the Class D semistate for ISSMA for nine years. Whiteland has the scholastic class preliminaries for the first year, but has hosted their own invitationals for at least the past four years.

Planning private invitationals is a matter of finding judges and parent volunteers and selling tickets and concessions, Schuessler said.

“My main push is all about service, we want to make it a great day for the people who come here,” he said.

Part of planning invitationals is realizing that thousands of people are coming into your community, said Sampson and Tim Kosch, band director at Franklin Community High School.

Kosch calls restaurants in Franklin to let them know when events are so they can plan ahead and know that they might be busier with hungry band families, he said.

“If they are here the entire time, a good number of them are visiting local restaurants,” he said.

Other schools try to keep their concession stands well stocked for the crowds.

“There is an economic boost to our area,” Sampson said. “That is why I enjoy hosting, it brings people into our community.”

If you go

What: Cavalcade of Champions

When: 2:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Greenwood performs at 6:35. Center Grove performs in exhibition at 8:19 p.m.

Where: Center Grove High School, 2717 S. Morgantown Road.

Cost: $7 for adults; $5 for students, seniors and preschoolers.

If you go

What: Scholastic class preliminary/Open Class Invitational for the Indiana State School Music Association

Where: Whiteland Community High School, 300 Main St.

When: 11 a.m. to 7:40 p.m. Saturday. Indian Creek performs at 12:31 p.m.; Franklin at 1:49 p.m. and Whiteland performs at 7:27 p.m.

Cost: $7 for adults and $5 for students and preschoolers.

At a glance

Johnson County has become a hub of marching band activity, with four local high school acting as sites for Indiana State School Music Association events or their private invitationals. Here is a look at what the four schools are hosting and when:

Greenwood: Greenwood Invitational in September

Center Grove: Cavalcade of Champions on Saturday; Open Class Regional on Oct. 15

Whiteland: Scholastic Class Preliminaries and Open Class Invitational on Saturday

Franklin: Open Class Semistate on Oct. 22

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mkritsch@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2770.