In its 40th year, the East Georgia Marching Band Festival and Championship at Statesboro High School has signed up 22 competitive bands – the most in years.
The SHS Marching Blue Devils and the Southern Pride of Georgia Southern University are also scheduled to deliver exhibition performances near the end of a very full day Saturday, bringing the total to 24 performances. The gate at the high school’s Womack Field football stadium will open at 9:30 a.m., and the awards ceremony is slated for 9 p.m., said SHS Marching Band Director Lee Collins.
Last year, 20 bands competed.
“So this is the biggest one we’ve had in lots and lots of years,” Collins said.
The championship was first held in 1976, but skipped a couple of years when Statesboro High was rebuilt. So this is the 40th anniversary, but not quite the 40th occurrence.
The championship’s Facebook page touts it as “the oldest marching band competition in the state of Georgia.” It is also the Marching Blue Devils’ biggest annual fundraiser. Admission is $7 per person.
Bands traveling to compete range in size classification from single-A bands such as those from Claxton High School and Tattnall County High School, through AA bands such as Screven County’s and Liberty County’s, up to AAAAA bands from Effingham County High, South Effingham County High, Houston County and Grovetown, Collins said.
The competitive band with the shortest drive is the Southeast Bulloch High School Swarm, competing this year at AAAA, with no AAA bands scheduled.
Performances will begin at 10:40 a.m. with the smallest bands. Bands of larger classifications play in the afternoon.
Being the host, Statesboro High’s band does not compete, but member students work throughout the day to move equipment and make sure bands and guests are accommodated.
The Marching Blue Devils are scheduled to perform their 2016 show “Piano Men,” featuring music of Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel and Ray Charles, as an exhibition at 8:20 p.m. The Southern Pride is slated to play at 8:40 p.m., with the presentation of awards to follow.