Small army of volunteers make Rock Hill's band festival possible

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comSeptember 28, 2013 

  • Competition results

    Saturday’s competition results: 1st place: James Byrnes; 2. East Lincoln: 3. Ridge view; 4. Dorman; 5. Clover; 6. Butler; 7. Blythewood; 8. Lewisville

Rock Hill’s District Three Stadium was alive with activity on Saturday. On the field, students moved in formations, competing. In the stands, people cheered, concessions were consumed and fans rooted for their schools and their students.

But it wasn’t a football game they were watching; it was the Olde English Festival of Bands, an all-day marching band competition sponsored by Northwestern and Rock Hill high schools. Eighteen bands from across the Carolinas were scheduled to compete.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 spectators and students were expected to attend this year’s event, said Steve Crocker, the president of the Northwestern Band Boosters. Crocker was just one of hundreds of volunteers needed to make the festival run smoothly.

“We should have 200 to 300 adults and students helping out today,” said Diane Bailey, a band parent from Northwestern and one of the volunteer coordinators.

Volunteers worked all day Friday to set up and were on site as early as 8 a.m. on Saturday to do everything from direct traffic to fry funnel cakes.

“It takes a lot of people and a lot of effort,” said Holly Whaley, a band parent and the co-chair of the Rock Hill band.

All the effort put into the planning and execution of the festival is because it is the largest money-maker for both bands all year, said seven-year festival veteran and band parent Tracy Helms. Each band should raise $12,000 to $15,000 from the festival, he said.

Helms and a few other band parents were up on the hill manning five fryers and two large grills. They were responsible for cooking 640 hamburgers, more than 1,500 chicken tenders and 1,000 pounds of french fries.

There also was a bake sale, concessions, a buffet-style food spread and a tent with a large deep fryer ready to make funnel cakes and fried Oreos, all set up and manned by volunteers.

At the bake sale, Northwestern freshman and clarinet player Allison Mosley was helping her mother and grandmother arrange baskets of cookies and brownies. Each Rock Hill and Northwestern band member had to volunteer for at least one shift.

“I do it to help raise money for our school,” she said.

By volunteering, the students learn how to be the next generation of band parents, and they see all the work that goes into events such as the festival, Whaley said.

“It teaches them work ethic and responsibility and skills for later in life,” she said.

Student volunteers performed tasks such as running food from the fryers and grills down to the concession stand, assisting with parking and helping with set-up and clean-up.

All the parent volunteers had the same answer as to why they had given up their Saturday to sell programs or flip burgers or direct school buses full of marching band players:

“We do it because we love our kids,” said parent Paul Chesney.

As her students strapped on their hats, adorned with feather plumes, to complete their blue and red “Cyclone Regiment” uniforms, Chester High School assistant band director Zora Foster said it was “awesome” to have such a large, well-run event so close to their school.

“I think it’s exciting because the kids get to come here and see all the different groups,” she said.

Crocker and fellow Northwestern band parent Todd Tucker helped direct the Chester High School band bus to its parking space. They said they’d be out there from 8 a.m. until mid-afternoon, directing buses.

Some groups, they said, would just have one bus and one trailer. Others would have up to six buses and two large trucks of equipment.

The bands scheduled to compete range from 40 students in size to 230 or more.

The long day is worth it, Tucker said.

“It helps our school and helps our kids,” he said. “Some of the best kids are in band.”

Rock Hill High flute and piccolo player Dani Holmes said events such as this show her all that happens behind the scenes to help make the band successful.

“You need the help of the parents to make it possible,” she said. “Without them, you wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Rachel Southmayd •  (803)329-4072

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