It's my favorite season of all--Marching Band Season! It's cool crisp fall air, precision marching, crab-walking drumlines, rifle-flinging colorguard, plume-ridden hats, and oh yeah--football games. It is 6 days a week for these dedicated kids, from now until November. It is practice every night until it is so dark they cannot see their director on the sky-high platform. It is formations and drills until their feet are swollen and their biceps are firm from holding their instruments up high. It is contests every weekend in cold, snow, rain, sleet, or blazing hot weather. It is wool uniforms that itch and ridiculous hats. It is competitive and it is band-parent crazy proud. I LOVE every minute, and I cannot wait for it to begin!
It is the single best thing my child has ever took part in. We've been through t-ball, soccer, baseball, ballet, chorus, basketball, and every you-name-it-we've-been-in-it that kids belong to when they are little. The most fulfilling, the most incredible, and the most fun to watch is, by far, the marching band. I don't think the kids love it as much as me, but who cares--they're doing it. Quit complaining and march!
There is no crowd like the band parent crowd either. There are masses of them that show up for the home football games. Not to watch the game, of course, but to watch the half-time show. We are the dorky dedicated that pay the admission, sit for endless scoreless minutes (hours), and just wait for the half-time show. Losers. I know, I never thought that would be me when I was a cool teen (was I ever cool?!). No way! Band was for nerds. And worse than band kids were band parents! Ultra nerds. Yep! That's me! And darn proud of it.
I LOVE that the stadium at contests are packed. I mean PACKED! There isn't one inch between butts on the bleachers. These contest hosts soak us--it is anywhere from $10 to $20 a piece to get in to watch. It is about $25 on average for us as a family to go. Crazy! But, we hand it over, with me mumbling the whole time, and prepare for the event of a lifetime. Hours of marching bands competing by class and school size. There are incredible shows by every imaginable school and band. There are huge bands where the colorguard numbers exceed our band size. There are the "up north" schools that have endless budgets for the arts that completely blow you away. Their lines are perfect. Their uniforms are brand-spanking new. Their buses and their trailers are stenciled and painted with their fancy names and jazzy logos. It is like a gathering of rock bands almost. And that includes their groupies. Parents, I mean.
There are the teeny tiny we-can-only-form-the-letter-L sized bands that are just as incredible to see. These are schools with numbers and budgets that are so minute, the effort alone should be given an award at the end of the night. The sound that comes out of these kids are something to behold. Add that to the you-can-hear-a-pin-drop silence in the stadium, and you've got some big time entertainment. Goose-bump kind of stuff.
Oh, did I mention that the band parents are NUTS? They wear the school colors. They yell, scream, ring cow bells, and wave giant flags--all for their band of allegiance. This is all when the band approaches the field and takes their starting formation. The man on the microphone asks the drum majors if they're "band is ready" and we're off. There is complete and utter silence that descends on the dewy field. The crowd is still, as they won't allow you to even leave your seat during a performance--it will distract the band. And there are very strict monitors in the stands that enforce this. (Imagine band parents with power--scary!) The world stops for those 7 or 10 minutes, whatever the rules are. Everyone sits holding their breath, whispering comments on this or that, sitting on their hands from pure excitement or the fact that they are nearly freezing the death. The band marches in lines and circles, or diagonals, forwards, backwards, all the while not bumping into each other. It is a rarity if someone trips or slides. Colorguard girls are flinging irridescent flags here and there. White rifles are tossed high into the air in complete unison. Sometimes there are even the sabres--but they just remind me of pirates, so I don't like them very much.
Oh, gosh, the pagentry. The drama. The music. I can't wait! We anticipate anxiously for the awards ceremony at the end of the evening. There are awards for colorguard, drum majors, drum lines, music, showmanship, and I can't even remember what else. All of the drum majors line up on the field, and when their school is called for an award, they do their little bit and then step forward to accept the award. They rehearse their "bit" for weeks. There is some saluting, arm-twirling, steps thingy that is kind of a dance. It is their presentation and I have to admit, the first time I saw it, I totally cracked up. It reminded me of the "Zoom"(Channel 11 tv show in the 70's) thing where the kids would twirl their arms without all tangling them up. It's kind of quirky, but hell, it's band kids, remember? There is a lot ear-hurting screaming from the crowd when someone wins something and it is just downright embarrassing to see these parents. (Oh--did I mention that we win a lot and I usually come home hoarse?) We jump up and down, hoot and holler, and act like fools. I actually thought of making a flag this year. It's official--I'm a loser.
Tonight kicks off the first football game of a very, very long season. I am a volunteer tonight and I get to wheel the band equipment onto the field for half-time. I will wear my orange and brown, and cheer on the band from the sidelines. I will ignore the loser football parents who think they are better and cooler than me. I will chat through the whole game, never watching or caring about a play, and suck my teeth when they lose---again. Did I mention that I can't wait?!!!