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Bulloch Blues marching to fund big trip
Event Thursday involves SHS, SEB, Portal bands
Bulloch Blues Orlando A
The Bulloch Blues Marching Band stays in step through downtown Orlando during the Florida Citrus Parade in late December 2015. After more than a year with no out-of-state parades, the band has its eyes on a spring event in Washington, D.C. - photo by Special

The Bulloch Blues Marching Band, combining the Portal Middle High School, Southeast Bulloch High School and Statesboro High School bands, is awaiting an invitation to perform in a Washington, D.C., parade in April, a trip that could cost more than $100,000.

Or rather, the 200-member collective, countywide band isn’t waiting for anything, but is busily raising money to cover about half of that cost, with individual members or their families potentially to pay the other half. The next fundraising event will be the March-a-thon this coming Thursday, when the bands, together in spirit but rehearsing by turns at their separate schools, are pledging to practice for 12 hours straight.

“The goal is so that someone is marching and rehearsing at all points in time,” said Statesboro Marching Blue Devils Director Lee Collins. “Depending on the weather, we may end up having to do marching rehearsals inside because we don’t want the kids to be passing out at 104 degrees.”

Collins, Southeast Bulloch Swarm Director Matt Olsen and Portal Pride Marching Band Director John Gleissner instruct and direct their separate bands but bring them together to march in local parades and out-of-county events.

Thursday’s 12-hour March-a-thon will be part of ongoing band camps at the schools as musicians and auxiliary units begin learning their shows for the 2017-18 season. The students don’t just practice music, but spend long hours getting in step.

Portal’s band is scheduled to practice at the school in Portal 8-9 a.m., noon-1 p.m., 3-4 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. Southeast Bulloch’s band will be rehearsing 9-10 a.m., 11 a.m.-noon, 2-3 p.m. and 6-7 p.m. Statesboro High’s times on its  usual practice field will be 10-11 a.m., 1-2 p.m., 4-5 p.m. and 7-8 p.m.

When those times are shuffled together, the 12 hours are full, with the school bands slated to march and rehearse four hours each.

Students have been collecting pledges of monetary donations for the hours they will be on the field. The band has been reaching out to family, friends and other supporters through the pages on the website 99pledges, said Deborah Champion, a Statesboro High band parent who serves as treasurer of the Bulloch Blues Boosters.


$100K journey

The Washington trip is projected to cost about $600 per student, she said. At that rate, simple arithmetic shows that if even 180 of the 200 band members go, the cost will top $100,000. Fundraising efforts are directed at reducing the cost for individual students to at most $400 or $350, Champion said.

“We’re going to have to raise about $50,000,” she said. “That’s a lot of money, but the March-a-thon is just one of the things that we’re doing.”

On the Fourth of July, the Bulloch Blues opened a booth during the Firecracker Fest at Mill Creek Regional Park and raffled off a guitar by Statesboro maker and musician Chris Mitchell. Alexis DeLoach, a Southeast Bulloch Middle School student, was the winner.

Car washes, a traditional fundraiser for the local bands, are slated August 5 and Sept. 9 at locations in Statesboro and Brooklet.


Third year for Blues

With the shared fundraising events, the three school bands are starting their third year of joining forces as the Bulloch Blues.

“It’s been great,” Collins said. “I mean, it allows our kids to get to know each other more from all over the county, and it provides a great performance opportunity. We were able to take them to Orlando to March in the Florida Citrus Bowl Parade the first year we did this.”

That was late December 2015. The band leaders are trying to land one out-of-state performance every two years. The in-between seasons are lower-key, and 2016-17 turned out to be all-local, after a scheduling conflict with football playoffs prevented the Bulloch Blues from participating in Savannah’s Veterans Day Parade in November.


Annual traditions

But the Bulloch Blues still marched as one for the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Parade in October and the Bulloch County Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade in January. They also held a fall Friends and Family Night that doubles as an annual fundraiser.

This school year, the plan is for the Bulloch Blues to do all of those local things, plus the Savannah parade in November and “a spring performance in a nationally ranked, televised parade,” Collins said.

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but organizers of a parade in the nation’s capital are in the process of sending out invitations. It would probably involve a four-day trip, Champion said.

For more information or updates, visit the band’s website, or the Bulloch Blues Marching Band page on Facebook.


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