We know the marching bands from Illinois high schools are about to take the field when Dan Balash, who has been running the Illinois Marching Online website for several years, more than I know, posts his annual “Welcome to the Season” message.
“There will be a myriad of features this year,” he writes about the site. “We will have some fun articles along the way, as well as some surprises that we really think you’ll like.”
As for the bands, this first Saturday, Sept 12, will bring a wide range of festivals. All of them are competitive, except for McHenry, which means the bands compete for trophies based on overall score, best music, best general effect, and so on. The competitive festivals sort bands into groups by school or ensemble size, although the classification system varies from one festival to another, depending on how many bands compete.
Especially at performances this early in the season, the weekend marks for most of the bands an opportunity to hear comments from expert adjudicators and then go back to the practice fields and rehearsal rooms to apply what those judges have said to tighten their field shows.
Details for eight of the biggest festivals are provided here. Results are coming in slowly, and this post will be updated as more information becomes available.
12 noon, Lake Park Lancer Joust
The 37th annual Lake Park Lancer Joust takes place at the West Campus of Lake Park High School, located about three miles west of the I-290/I-355/IL-53 junction in northwest suburban Roselle. The first band takes the field at noon, and 19 will follow, including one from Wisconsin, in preliminary competition, followed by a finals competition beginning at about 7:30.
The festival marks the first field performance in the final year from Lincoln-Way North High School (other than during halftime at the school’s home football games). Although District 210 may reopen the school one day, the board approved the closure of the 8-year-old high school at the end of this school year. The band will perform at 2:30, and given this group’s quality during the too-short history of the school, they’ll likely return for the finals. The band is under the direction of Kirk Hickman and Justin Barnish.
1 PM, McHenry Marching Festival
This festival at McHenry High School, 4724 W Crystal Lake Road, McHenry, is non-competitive and is focused on providing quality feedback in an instructional setting to students and directors alike. The experienced judging panel provides written and recorded comments, and each participating band gets a 20–25 minute on-field clinic with one of the judges.
The McHenry High School marching band will be at the Chicagoland Marching Band Festival in two weeks and at several other competitive shows this year, including the Prospect Knight of Champions on Oct 3. But for their home show, there’s no competition, only learning.
1:28 PM, Washington Marching Panther Invitational
The Marching Panther Invitational has a long history at Washington Community High School, having first been held about 30 years ago. That was on regular grass, but the district upgraded the field to artificial turf last year, after a devastating tornado struck the area the year before. The new surface provided 21 bands last year with a consistent and well-marked marching field. Bands didn’t “have to worry about how a field is mowed or if there’s a muddy or uneven surface,” band director Jim Tallman was quoted as saying in the Peoria Journal-Star.
The field of 21 bands last year tied the record for the largest number of groups in the festival’s 28-year history. This year, in the 29th year of the festival, that record falls, as 26 bands and one drumline take the field, beginning a few minutes before 1:30. In April, Voxitatis reported that the new artificial turf field at Morton High School, also near Peoria, could be expected to increase the enrollment at the festival there, once more bands find out about the artificial turf. It certainly did the trick at Washington.
3 PM, Metro East Marching Classic
The Metro East Marching Classic, at O’Fallon Township High School, 600 S Smiley Street, O’Fallon, near St Louis, has a full slate of bands. About half of them come from Illinois schools, and the other half come from Missouri just across the big river.
The festival kicks off at 3 PM and won’t be over until after 10, providing more than seven hours of listening and viewing joy, including brand new uniforms for Alton Senior High School.
3 PM, Sullivan Marching Band Competition
Sullivan High School, 725 N Main Street, Sullivan, about 20 miles southeast of Decatur, will host its second annual marching band festival and put the hard work of six Illinois bands on the field. After each band performs, a clinician will work with them in order to help them fine tune the performance elements in their show for the remainder of the season.
3:45 PM, AA Stagg Jamboree
The Stagg Jamboree takes place at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, 8015 W 111th Street, Palos Hills, in Chicago’s southwest suburbs, where it has been for 36 years. The festival kicks off at 3:45 and early-season performances by 21 Illinois bands follow, including Herscher and Wheaton North, which will be joining the Stagg Jamboree after a performance at the Lake Park Lancer Joust a few hours earlier.
“We here at Stagg are honored to host the the annual Marching Band Jamboree,” wrote band director Robert Mecozzi on the school’s website. “Each participating band spends countless hours rehearsing in order to present the high-quality shows. The Jamboree is a celebration of that time and that effort.”
Saturday, Belleville East Marching Invitational
The 11th annual Belleville East Marching Invitational occurred on Saturday, Sept 12, but details of the festival are sketchy at this time. The post will be updated as more information becomes available.
1 PM Sunday, Sept 13, Grayslake North Knights Marching Festival
The final festival of the weekend takes place on Sunday, Sept 13, at Grayslake North High School, 1925 North Illinois Route 83, Grayslake. This festival started out very small in 2011, with just four bands. Elk Grove has been named grand champion for the last two years; they’ll be back.
We would be remiss not to mention here the tragic accidental death of a Grayslake North student, Haylie Winiewicz, on Aug 29. The marching band, football team, and Haylie’s cheerleading squad participated in a schoolwide vigil for her a little more than a week ago. Based on news reports and the memorials tweeted on her behalf, she was a passionate person, kind and loving in her nature. Once again, #playforhaylie.