Flags flew and symphonies rang through O’ Brien Stadium as hundreds gathered to watch 33 high school bands from all over Illinois compete in the 41st annual Panther Marching Band Festival Saturday Sept. 30.
Bands were divided into divisions based on school size. Schools with fewer than 700 students composed the Small Division bands (1A, 1B, 2A and 3A), while schools with more than 700 students made up the Large Division bands (4A and 5A).
Josef Gill, a junior at Mount Carmel High School and member of the Mount Carmel Marching Aces, said that the competition this year felt more difficult compared to past competitions here at Eastern.
“So many of these bands are so good, and it’s really exciting to get to see them perform,” Gill said.
Field shows ranged from Disney Around the World, to A Tribute to the Beatles, to Haunted.
“I feel good about our performance today. Whether we win or lose, we gave it all we had and worked together as a team,” Gill said after the Marching Aces performed their show, Beyond the Forest’s Edge.
Gill said marching band is such a great experience because of the feeling you get while performing with a group of people you grow so close to throughout marching season.
Before the award ceremonies for both the Small and Large Division schools, the Panther Marching band performed their “One Woman Show”, a tribute to female artists who only go by one name.
Katrina Osick, a senior biology and physics secondary education major, and a member of the Panther Marching band, said that it was great to watch all the other bands perform.
“I love watching all the high schools trying their best and doing their best on the field,” Osick said. “It’s just really good.”
The stadium was filled with hundreds of performers, parents, and other spectators clapping and encouraging each other throughout the festival.
Osick said that being a part of marching band, especially the Panther Marching Band, gives a great feeling of community, and that it starts to feel like having a second family.
“I first started marching band in 6th grade, and after getting to do parades and everything, I kept doing it in high school,” Osick said. “It also got me out of doing P.E.”
While the Panther Marching Festival provided a way for new bands to come to Eastern, many of the bands have attended previous festivals. Some of the band directors present even attended Eastern for their studies.
Gill said his band director, Kimberly Mandrell, is an Eastern alumnus and former drum major for the Panther Marching Band.
“I know it’s a great experience for her to be able to compete at her Alma Mater,” Gill said. “She has higher standards for us at this competition especially because of that.”
In the end, Sparta won in Class 1A, Wesclin won in Class 1B, Unity won in Class 2A and Newton won in Class 3A, as well as overall in the Small Division. Later in the night, Triad won in Class 4A and Granite City won in Class 5A, as well as receiving the Grand Champion Award.
Travis Moody can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]