Thousands of people traveled to Johnson County over the weekend to watch high school marching bands from across the state compete, but preparations for all those visitors began months ago.
Both Whiteland and Center Grove hosted band competitions over the weekend, and in the weeks to come, Franklin will, too. And when marching bands travel, parents, friends and other family members come, too, filling parking lots, heading to local restaurants and shops and, in some cases, staying at local hotels.
The events range from regional competitions to invitationals, where schools invite bands from across the state to compete in preparation for statewide events. Marching bands go to the events with the goal of improving and getting more experience.
One of the reasons schools host the events is the chance to raise money for their programs. Band directors said through admission prices and concession sales, the band can raise more than $10,000 throughout the day.
“We use these events as fundraisers,” said Tim Kosch, band director at Franklin Community High School. “Every part helps support our program.”
Local schools spend months planning the events that often last up to 12 hours.
From finding quality judges to hosting a hospitality room for the directors and judges, dozens of volunteers are needed to make the event run smoothly.
“The parents are a vital role to make sure all aspects of the day happen as needed,” said Pete Sampson, band director at Whiteland Community High School. “The students and parents involved in the marching band activity are some of the most dedicated and hard working people that you can find.”
Even though the schools have been hosting the invitationals anywhere from 10 years to multiple decades, making the event happen still takes a lot of hard work from the parents, students and teachers, band directors said.
“It’s a year-round planning process,” Greenwood Community High School marching band director John Morse said. “For it to go well, it must be done with a massive, collective effort.”
Volunteers aren’t all that is needed to make the day go well.
“A great deal of planning and coordination is needed between the school, school administration, school staff, band parents and students,” Morse said.
For instance, at Franklin, most of the high school campus is used for band events, so school officials have to ensure other large events aren’t taking place the same day.
“One of the most important things we keep in mind is how our event will co-exist with the other activities that could be happening at the same time,” Kosch said.
Providing great service throughout the day is the No. 1 priority, directors said.
For example, at Center Grove, which hosted its annual Cavalcade of Champions over the weekend, the school provides golf carts for parking areas, and any issues that come up are quickly addressed, said Kevin Schuessler, band director at Center Grove High School.
“It is truly about keeping the fires small by addressing issues in a timely and respectful manner,” Schuessler said.
They also make sure to seek out the best judges so marching bands leave the weekend with a better view of the needs of their show and how to help their students, which is exactly why bands go to invitationals, directors said.
“It is an educational opportunity for groups that attend,” Morse said. “It gives them a chance to gain feedback to help make their performance better throughout the season.”
The events take a lot of hard work and are a long day, but are worth it, band directors said.
In addition to the weekend’s invitational at Center Grove, the school will also host an open class invitational for the state music association this weekend. Whiteland Community High School also hosted an open class invitational for the Indiana State School Music Association, and will host its own invitational later this month. And Franklin will host the semi-state competition later this month.
“It is a great opportunity for our band to perform at home in front of a great crowd and it is great to bring people into our community and showcase our beautiful school and facilities,” Sampson said.
Here is a look at upcoming local marching band events:
Center Grove: Open class regional, Indiana State School Music Association
Whiteland: Whiteland Marching Band Invitational
Franklin: Indiana State School Music Association Semi-state, class D