More than 3,000 people packed Statesboro High School's Womack Field Saturday to catch the sounds of the 38th Annual East Georgia Marching Band Festival.
Top bands came from all over to compete, including local schools Claxton, Southeast Bulloch and South Effingham; from southern Georgia Pierce County and Bradwell Institute; and even Newnan and Wheeler high schools from the Atlanta area.
"I have attended the East Georgia Marching Band Festival for the last 15 years, and this was by far the strongest field of band performances I have ever seen," SHS band director Lee Collins said.
Wheeler, which fields a Class AAAAA band, earned the Grand Champion trophy with a judged score of 95.52. South Effingham, also a AAAAA band, took second with 94.25, while Southeast Bulloch's "The Swarm," a Class AA band, finished third with 92.75.
The Swarm also took home the Best in Class AA Award, and the awards for Best Dance, Best Drum Major and Best Percussion in its class.
"I was thrilled to have a show in my hometown," SEB drum major John Strickland said after the event. "The Swarm's performance reflected all of their hard work. It excites me to be a part of this band."
Bloomingdale's New Hampstead High, which won the Best in Class A Award, is directed by Alan Weathers, who is both a graduate of Southeast Bulloch and Georgia Southern University, and he was a student teacher at Statesboro High.
Washington-Wilkes High band members were decked out with bright Pink Plumes. Band director Emme Hines said her band sold the plumes to band supporters to raise funds for breast cancer research.
Collins and Statesboro Band Booster President Deb Champion thanked the "Marching Blue Devils, our parents and volunteers, and our sponsors, who made this such an amazing championship."
"This will be a memory that will last in my mind for the rest of my life," SHS band member Stephanie Bradford.
"I think it was our most successful event in years!" she said.
Both the SHS Blue Devil Marching Band and The Swarm will compete Saturday in the Marching Mustangs Invitational at South Effingham High School in Guyton.
Admission to the competition is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and children under 5 are free. Gates open at 12:30 p.m., Statesboro will take the field at 2:10 and Southeast Bulloch at 2:50.